Consultant calls for oval twin on tar ponds site

Cape Breton Post
Thurs. Dec. 22, 2011

The concept of a public skating oval has been brought to the attention of the consultant who is developing the blueprints for the post-industrial use of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

Owen Fitzgerald, executive director of the Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office, recently began calling for the establishment of a skating oval at the Sydney tar ponds site after the current remediation project is completed. Fitzgerald said he was motivated by discussion within his own family of the desire for a facility similar to the oval that is about to open on the Halifax Common.

A Facebook page set up to promote the concept in Sydney has attracted just over 200 supporters.

Fitzgerald said refrigeration units would make it possible to skate in temperatures up to 10 C. He suggested the remediated tar ponds site because of its central location, availability of land and a chance to tap into the tar ponds legacy fund to cover costs associated with the oval.

Fitzgerald said he has also received calls of support. “Perhaps this can be the beginning of a larger conversation,” he said. “Perhaps the transformation of the infamous tar ponds can be the stimulus for the transformation of Sydney.”

Meggan Desmond, communications officer with the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said the idea of an oval has been brought to Stantec Consulting Ltd., which was recently awarded a $1.48-million contract to provide the engineering design plans for future projects at the sites following completion of the $400-million effort to remediate toxins following a century of steelmaking.

The designers want to get feedback from the community regarding the support for such a facility, Desmond said. The concept would fit in with one of the intended future uses of the site — to provide recreational facilities and support active living.

The design for the tar ponds site calls for a commons area with an outdoor concert venue to accommodate up to 10,000 people, a trail network with bridges and boardwalks connecting downtown Sydney, Whitney Pier and Ashby, and other recreation facilities. The coke ovens site would be home to a business park that would allow for commercial and light industrial development.

Future construction included in the design plan will be subject to what remains of the $400-million budget once the remediation project is completed. The federal-provincial cost-share agreement expires March 31, 2014.