HALIFAX - Tears came to George Findlay’s eyes when regional councillors voted to save the Halifax Forum.
The chair of the Halifax Forum Community Association (HFCA) said it’s a happy day after five years of discussions to close the historic building
“I’m just tremendously elated,” Findlay said after the vote at City Hall Tuesday. “You can see the tears in my eyes.”
As a city institution Findlay pointed to the many bands, hockey games and prime ministers the Forum has hosted, as well as bingo nights that have drawn crowds.
But there were concerns about the facility’s ability to accommodate demand with only two ice surfaces, small dressing rooms and smaller seating area.
City staff had proposed closing the Forum and selling the land to help offset the costs of building a new four-pad arena with CFB Halifax in Windsor Park, but ultimately councillors defeated that proposal during the lengthy Committee of the Whole meeting.
“While I respect that there are some advantages to the CFB proposal, in terms of capital up-front costs, and possibly long-term costs, as I’ve said before… the Forum has more to offer than a four-pad. We’re going to be talking about a significantly different facility,” said Coun. Waye Mason.
Mason tabled a new motion directing city staff to come up with a plan for renovating the Forum, which would include mixed-use opportunities, with a completion date in 2019.
“That’s all part of our plan,” said Findlay. “It’s done in great detail by our architects…. The outside will be renovated. The walkways will all be interconnecting. There will be a new gym.”
HFCA has developed a $39 million proposal to refurbish the Forum, add third ice surface, and expand the existing Forum and Civic rinks to NHL size.
The motion also directs staff to begin planning a new four-pad for Commodore Drive in Dartmouth, and upon its completion, declare the Devonshire, Gray, Bowles and Lebrun arenas surplus.