Kamloops minor hockey teams looking forward to return to Memorial Arena | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops minor hockey teams looking forward to return to Memorial Arena

The Memorial Arena in Kamloops was originally repurposed as a homeless shelter out of necessity, while sports were on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamloops skaters and hockey players are looking forward to more ice time as the Memorial Arena is set to be returned to its intended use.

Nathan Bosa is the chair of Kamloops Minor Hockey Association and he's glad young players can get more time on the ice without leaving those that use the shelter out in the cold.

"We wish it was open sooner, but the City's getting it done," he said. "Everyone understands that people need shelter, and we'd never want to take that away."

Among the three new temporary housing initiatives announced for Kamloops on Tuesday, a new 50-bed emergency shelter, called Merit Place, at the former Greyhound bus station is intended to replace the current shelter at  Memorial Arena.

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The shelter at 725 Notre Dame is expected to be open in the new year after the building is renovated.

B.C. Housing currently has an 18-month lease agreement with the property owner to use the former bus station.

Both local hockey teams and other user groups are looking forward to returning to using the downtown ice rink after its continued use forced some groups to skate at other communities, like Logan Lake.

"Once it's open, we can start running some development camps that we really need to do," Bosa said.

He added young hockey players missed out on crucial practice time when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted hockey schedules throughout the 2020/2021 season.

The hockey association plans to host more development camps as ice time becomes more available and increase tournament capacity within the city rather than travelling to rinks out of town.

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Sources at the City told iNFOnews.ca that consistent pressure from the public to return Memorial Arena to its intended use pushed City politicians and staff to find new shelter spaces with B.C. Housing.

After iNFOnews.ca published a story revealing where two new shelter spaces were scheduled to open, B.C. Housing issued a press release detailing the bed capacity, when they would be expected to open and an additional facility that is yet to be built in Kamloops.

Along with the 50 beds at the former bus station, 25 temporary beds are scheduled to open for the winter at the Stuart Wood Elementary School.

They will also be overseeing the construction of a temporary housing facility at 600 Kingston Avenue, near Halston Bridge, dubbed Moira House.

Moira House is expected to open after the new year.

All three shelters will be managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association, with support from Out of the Cold.

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Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Alfred Achoba has been waiting for an announcement about where added shelter space will be opened while winter approaches.

The 25 new emergency beds will not be open potentially until December and will still leave Kamloops short on shelter for the homeless. Most recent reports from the City say Kamloops currently falls short by 90 beds.

Merit Place is much further from services that CMHA clients and homeless people might access downtown or on the North Shore, but Achoba said their clients are resourceful and will access the shelter if they want to use it.

"I think part of the reason (the City) picked those sites is because they have a plan. Whether there's a shuttle service or because clients already hang out there," Achoba said, adding that his organization has been successfully running the Envision shuttle service with ASK Wellness for over a month.

"We provide the shelter and the rest can be figured out," he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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