Bothwell Rallies Around Arena

Bothwell Arena support

Citizens, including Joan Horvat (centre) at Bothwell Area Sports Centre this past weekend – Photo by Angela Van Horn Photography

The community of Bothwell does not want to see their arena fall victim to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s next round of budget cuts.

After it was announced last week that Bothwell’s Arena would be closed in order to help meet 2016 budget targets, a group of citizens immediately moved into action to begin showing their support for the community’s arena.

Saturday at the John Horvat Memorial Tournament, hundreds of citizens showed up throughout the day to the Bothwell Area Sports Centre to show their support for keeping the arena open and viable, as well as to take in the Novice tournament action, and skills competition.

According to Jordan Bray, an executive member of the Bothwell Men’s Hockey League, and a member of the Bothwell Community Boosters, who was one of the first to jump on board in support of the arena, he was in shock when he learned his community’s arena was on the chopping block.

“When the news about the proposal to close the arena came down I was in complete disbelief,” said Bray. “The Bothwell Arena is so much more to our community than bricks and mortar, which is why the people of this area have reacted so vocally. For 45 years, the arena has played the role of community centre for Bothwell and the surrounding area. Residents of the town and former township fund raised, and constructed the building completely by themselves, brick by brick. As a result, there is a relationship between the people of Bothwell and this arena that is difficult to put into words.”

Bray says the arena is a hub for community events, both on and off the ice; and although he admits the current model isn’t working in Bothwell, he says the community of Bothwell believes the Bothwell Area Sports Centre can be viable.

“The fact that hockey or figure skating are too expensive for most familes may be a reality, but there are many cost-effective recreational opportunities that we should be allowed to run from within this facility. Understandably, there are constraints that we must operate within, and we generally agree that the current service model may work well for some locations, but it hasn’t been effective in Bothwell. We need to re-tool and review how and when service is provided rather than lock the doors for the good.”

Support this weekend during the John Horvat Memorial Tournament came in many forms. One notable supporter was NHLer Bo Horvat, the grandson of John Horvat, who Tweeted support for the community.

“Help keep my grandfathers tournament alive and the Bothwell arena going! Please show your support #SmallTownLove.”

With budget open houses under way this week, and budget deliberations beginning next week, Bothwell and area residents understand there is a long road ahead, but they know one thing, and that is, Bothwell Arena is at the heart of their community, and it should not be closed.

“The building itself is a symbol of what can be accomplished when hard working people who want to make a difference come together for the good of their community and neighbours,” says Bray. “To take that away from a small town that is already living through lean times would effectively stop the heartbeat of these vibrant and passionate people.”

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  • comment-avatar
    Dennis Wilson 4 years

    This is precisely how almalgamation kills small towns by taking away their gathering places. I remember the ecitemant we felt in the community as the arena was being built. Never did I ever think a few people at a budget table would consider closing it..
    I hope smarter heads prevail and there is enough common ground to keep the arena active both summer and winter.

  • comment-avatar
    Joshua McRitchie 4 years

    Do not shut this arena down, Chatham Kent does not have the right too since the community built it. I’ve had so many great memories and it shaped the person I am today. Taking this away will tear the heart out of this amazing community!

  • comment-avatar
    Stacy Suitor 4 years

    What about the surrounding area who use this arena for ice time for local hockey teams travel and house league! Local surrounding areas book ice time here because there isn’t enogh spots at other venues! Please give this area a chance! If money is a budget factor let’s look at we pay our counsel it’s and towns people, there has to be other ways of saving money! Hold more events and fundraiser to keep it!

  • comment-avatar
    robert d 4 years

    cash bar. problem solved.