The proposed West Coast Multiplex is expected to be a hot topic today as local leaders will gather to discuss the facility’s future.
The project, which currently involves an ice rink and swimming pool being built near Long Beach Airport in phases, with the ice rink coming first, will be up for debate at the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District’s West Coast Committee meeting at Tofino’s Municipal Hall at 1 p.m. on Feb. 16.
The phase one ice rink is expected to cost around $18 million and the West Coast Multiplex Society will be on the hook for fundraising that amount while local taxpayers would help cover the facility’s annual operating costs.
Ucluelet’s municipal council plans to support the current phased plan, Tofino’s will ask for an investigation into whether the facility is really what the region wants and Electoral Area C will withdraw its support unless both Tofino and Ucluelet express unified support.
Local First Nations have shown consistent support for the project and the Westerly caught up with three Nation leaders to gauge whether that support still stands.
Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Elmer Frank said his community remains excited about the project and wants to see it move ahead as planned.
“The multiplex is certainly something that is going to bring a lot of positive entertainment for not only the youth but the adults as well. I think it’s a great project,” Frank said. “We’ve seen so many families go through highways [to Port Alberni] in the wintertime to go play ice hockey and, if we can do that here, it would certainly save a lot of headache and heartache and expenses…If we can do it, we should just do it.”
“I recognize that there is some political challenges going forward, but I think that we can overcome those things as we look forward to seeing positive changes in terms of working together, collectively, with the municipalities surrounding our area,” he said.
The Toquaht First Nation’s Hereditary Chief Anne Mack said her Nation also supports the project, especially the young families who are becoming a rising demographic in the Nation’s community of Macoah.
“They’re looking to the future for their children and children’s children,” she said.
She said the facility would provide more activities for local youth while also providing a venue to bring the region together under one roof.
“It would mean networking with our surrounding neighbours. There isn’t a lot going on that brings us all together,” she said.
Ucluelet First Nation President Les Doiron said the project would help keep kids active and interested while also opening the door for new scholarship opportunities through sport.
“If you don’t see the good in it, then you must be a blind person,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think that moving forward is mandatory.”
He added that both kids and adults would benefit from a rink and that it would provide a space for meetings, concerts and events.
“It’s not just about a sports facility, it’s about galvanizing your community and bringing all the communities together,” he said. “We’re much more than just a surfing and wine-tasting community.”
He added corporate dollars would likely start coming in to cover the facility’s capital costs if the region unified its voice behind the project.
“I think that, because some of these people that are out there and are at capacity already, they are not looking at the big picture and they are not looking at the youth and the children and what the needs are,” he said. “We’d be moving backwards by not building it.”