Arena operations shifts from local Lions Club to St. Catharines

Published February 7, 2023 at 11:55 am

St. Catharines will now take over operations of the Merritton Centennial Arena after the local Lions Club has stepped away.

The Lions Club of Merritton have handed the keys to the zamboni at Merritton Centennial Arena over to the City of St. Catharines.

While the Lions Club has been operating the arena since 1979 through a lease agreement with the city, a recent vote within their ranks saw them chose to step away after this year’s ice season.

“We’re proud to have been a part of the history of the rink since day one, but the timing is right for this. The business climate of arena operations has changed dramatically since we first started this partnership with the City,” said Lions Club treasurer Keith Brown, who called the club’s decision “bitter-sweet”.

“As we look at our long-term vision as a club, we’ve made a decision to focus our efforts on building on the many other ways we are supporting the community.”

The club has had historic ties to the arena since it was built as an outdoor facility in 1967, Canada’s centennial year and the reason for the name.

When it was originally built, the Lions had the assistance of the Merritton Legion, Merritton Athletic Association, Merritton Volunteer Fire Department and the community at large. The club was also key in building the outdoor rink into an enclosed one in 1969.

The city is no stranger to helping with recent repair costs including a recent $2.2 million upgrade that assisted with accessibility issues.

“The City is proud of the partnership we’ve had with the Lions, and we’re thankful for the significant contributions they’ve made to our community, including the operation of the arena for nearly 45 years. A special thanks to Lion Geoff Crane who volunteered as arena manager for the last 40 years,” said St. Catharines CAO David Oakes.

“The City will ensure the arena continues to be open and available for the community to use in the future. It was an important piece of the arena strategy City Council approved in 2019.”

To ensure it stays open, St. Catharines included $250,000 in the approved 2023 operating budget to support the operation change from the Lions to the city.

Staffers added they will be reviewing options on how best to continue to operate the key recreational asset.

Despite stepping away from the arena, the Lions Club is going to continue to operate the Merritton Community Centre, next door to the arena, as part of a separate lease agreement.

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