Update on Memorial Arena Re-Purposing

The Cobourg Community Centre opened in 2011 with two ice pads and made the Jack Heenan and Memorial Arenas on Furnace Street redundant.  The newer Jack Heenan Arena was taken over by the West Northumberland Curling Club and in 2019 the Memorial Arena was shut down. I believe it was Cobourg’s first publicly owned Arena. It’s now 70 years old – it was opened in January 1950 but a fire in 1953 closed it until it was rebuilt in 1954. In 2019, staff thought that the Cultural Plan might suggest uses but that didn’t happen so eventually an Ad Hoc Committee was formed to suggest what might happen to it.  (By-Law 021-2021 was passed 20 September 2021). See links below for reports on these snail-paced actions.  But now that the committee has members and terms of reference, they are meeting and have a plan to come up with recommendations.

Memorial Arena
Memorial Arena

At the committee’s next meeting on March 23, Brian Geerts, Director of Community Services, will present a “Work Plan”.  The plan spells out what the committee is supposed to achieve but is also useful as a progress report since it includes information on some Options and Constraints.

Project Goals and Objectives

  • Identify and consider the needs of the community;
  • Consider the Memorial Arena Property Condition Assessment conducted by Pinchin Ltd in 2018;
  • Review and tour the Memorial Arena building and site;
  • Consider the site in relation to the present and potential use of the adjacent Jack Heenan Arena, other area development plans [such as the Tannery Project], and the Town’s Zoning By-law and Official Plan;
  • Consider successful examples of arena repurposing from other municipalities;
  • Consider the Town of Cobourg’s commitment to sustainability
  • Encourage and receive public submissions of ideas and suggestions for the site;
  • Consider a range of opportunities which may include, but are not limited to:
    • Alternative recreational or cultural uses;
    • Community partnership opportunities;
    • The disposal or development of the site;
  • Consider the financial feasibility of each option with input from the Town’s Finance Department;
  • Document the potential advantages and disadvantages of each shortlisted option;
  • Consider other matters as referred to the Committee by Council.

The committee’s output will be a report to Council of a shortlist of three to six options for the Memorial Arena that:

  • meet the needs of the community,
  • are financially and technically viable, and
  • align with the Town of Cobourg’s Strategic Plan.

There are some constraints that must be considered:

  • Existing solar array contract [the roof is fully covered by Solar panels].
  • Building condition assessment including accessibility considerations
  • Utility connections through Memorial Arena to Jack Heenan Arena

Possible uses to be considered


  • Senior’s activities
  • Activities for young children and young adults
  • Community space for social connection/community development (social enterprise, skills training, etc.)
  • Mental health services
  • Affordable & rental housing
  • Child care services


  • Market hall (similar to Toronto’s Distillery District, retail experiences, etc.)
  • Post-secondary education (remote campus)


  • Aquatics facility
  • Skateboard park
  • Pickleball courts
  • Basketball courts
  • Multi-use facility: Axe throwing/rock climbing/roller skating
  • Elite athlete training facility
  • Arena/additional ice time (more analysis needed)
  • Community gardens
  • Indoor soccer


  • Art gallery
  • Theatre/concert venue
  • Studio/rental space for artists and community groups

Third Party

  • Lease to third party for their own (business) use – for example, in October 2020, local  wrestling promoter Derek Sharp offered to take it over as a venue.  News item in Northumberland Today


  • Sell property for re-development

Status Quo

See the full Work Plan for some limited (“high level”) comments on these options.

The Work plan also includes guidelines for managing the project – that is, suggestions on how to go about coming up with recommendations.

There will be public consultation along the way – this is a significant project and could take a while.


Posts on Cobourg News Blog

Memorial Arena Ad Hoc Committee members

Citizens:  Allan Proos;  James Young;  Don Wilcox; Dora Body; Susan Caron.
Councillors: Emily Chorley; Brian Darling; Nicole Beatty
Staff:  Brian Geerts, Director of Community Services; Jason Johns, Manager, Arenas and Facilities; Jodi Ware-Simpson.


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Cobourg taxpayer
21 March 2022 7:28 pm

I vote for sell property for redevelopment. We don’t need another drain of taxpayers money, we have enough of those in Cobourg.

21 March 2022 11:22 am

Lots of good ideas above and some mentioned in this blog. I’m hoping for some high level planning dates will be included in the Work Plan presented March 23rd.

21 March 2022 9:17 am

Sell property for development which will then be taxed for the benefit of the Cobourg budget.

Reply to  cornbread
21 March 2022 3:40 pm

I played hockey on that rink in the late 1950’s. Not very good hockey mind you. I think housing would ideal.

Pete M
Reply to  cornbread
22 March 2022 6:02 pm

How is a new housing project 30-50 units plus required parking, going to work with a curling club that requires parking for their members.
And please dont say because its downtown they dont need parking because everything is walkable.

Maybe it can be the new location for soup kitchen, safe injection site, overnite shelter for street people and with major upgrades, heating insulation and electrical etc it can replace transition house with greater capacity. Counselling/ mental health capacity as well

A one stop social services– service centre??

20 March 2022 9:11 pm

Using Google street view, it seems the east and west side walls, which are painted white, look bland. Not many windows, not very friendly looking on street facing facades. How about checking the structural integrity of those exterior walls to see if they can support an addition on each side to run along the length of the building? A long two storey addition built to green building standards and which would house new residential units, apartments. These additions would essentially be separate buildings but rely on the main building for the back walls. Maybe as common hallways to access units. The main building could be mostly community space and multi-purpose use. Definitely a good idea to include planning of this area as part of the Tannery Neighbourhood. Good suggestion below by ben, and to look at project partnership possibilities. I think there is an old survey plan that shows parkland in this vicinity but I suppose that park became the arena. Some public green space nearby would be nice too.

Reply to  MiriamM
20 March 2022 9:30 pm

So, who is paying for this pie in the sky transformation?
Until we know where the money is coming from for this building it should stay vacant.
it is easy to make suggestions when it isn’t your money

Reply to  Leweez
20 March 2022 10:43 pm


It’s as much Miriam’s money as it is your’s. She’s fully entitled to make suggestions and ideas….where are your’s? Make a positive contribution.

Reply to  Bryan
21 March 2022 1:07 am

Just because my position is different from yours or hers does not mean it is not positive Bryan

Reply to  MiriamM
21 March 2022 5:39 am

If “repurposing” a building to provide housing is the plan, then start with the existing Golden Plough Lodge – two and three storey connected buildings already in place and in use – with working electricals, heating, plumbing. cable TV, lighting.

Lots of useable space ready to convert to housing with communal kitchen areas.

Perfectly good housing, scheduled to be demolished by the county later this year.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  JimT
22 March 2022 10:03 pm

What do you plan to do with the 120 or 130 elderly people who currently live out their days in the Golden Plough?

Last edited 10 months ago by Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
22 March 2022 10:33 pm

Maybe they can move to the new one being built. 😉
Then, perhaps “repurposing” the old one can be done to something like what JimT suggests. Not sure how feasible his plan is but at least 33 people around here like it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Frenchy
Reply to  Frenchy
23 March 2022 11:22 am

Thanks Frenchy.

In order to continue to best meet the needs of residents as well as current best practices in long-term care, a new 180-bed GPL will be built by December 2022. This new facility will be located adjacent to the existing facility on County-owned land.”

comment image

Last edited 10 months ago by JimT
Reply to  Frenchy
23 March 2022 12:18 pm

Yeah. I have every confidence that the county plans to move the 120 or 130 elderly people who currently live out their days in the Golden Plough into the new facility next door well before they demolish the existing one.

Last edited 10 months ago by JimT
Reply to  JimT
23 March 2022 8:34 pm

An interesting point, have we heard one peep out of the Northumberland Housing Authority or its Chair – Gil Brocanier? the answer is not yet, but even better has anyone asked?

Obviously if the idea to convert the existing GPL building to Housing is such a good idea to most of us there must be an official answer as to why it cannot be done. If it has been given, tucked away in some dark and dusty report from the County Staff, let’s see it!

Reply to  MiriamM
21 March 2022 8:31 am

Along with the Transition house , Shelter
2 or 3 Birds 1 stone with centralized multi care even office space for those officials
where they can see First hand what they have to deal with and address
No more of those Arm or Office chair managers
It also has a perfectly good Dinning / Canteen area and Kitchen in place
plus plumbing for wash rms and Showers
The Town and County should consider a well supervised multi purpose housing alternative
There is plenty of space ,parking and outdoor play area andthe buildings have lots of ceiling height where a 2 nd floor may be added .

If this where in public owner ship / hands or a Historic designation of some sort the Owners would be forced to Rejuvenate / Repurpose such a building no matter the condition .
Demolition would not be an option .

20 March 2022 8:35 pm

How about a permanent concert venue with some decent bands. Cover the carrying costs and bring some life into this sleepy Town.

Reply to  Informed
21 March 2022 8:53 am

I hear Blue Rodeo is playing at the CCC later this spring. We also have Victoria Hall Concert Hall, various pubs some with outdoor patios, the Bandshell at Victoria Park, certainly a pop-up-concert venue at the end of the east pier would be cool in summer. And a variety of concert venues around in the hills of the surrounding Northumberland County. A possible issue with this arena as a concert venue is the fact it is located in a quiet residential area with quiet businesses employing people.

20 March 2022 6:16 pm

OK here goes:

Have Council give a commitment to the concept of using the Memorial Arena as community space, with a substantial percentage of the space devoted to public housing that would be designed to alleviate the homelessness epidemic. It should be noted that both studies and experience have proven that the major component of reducing homelessness is access to affordable housing.

  1. Get an appraisal for value of the property (the resale of the site, as is or as a redevelopment site).
  2. Transfer the ownership of the property to the County Housing Authority for their mandate to provide affordable housing.


  1. Council to establish a Cobourg Housing Authority and provide housing by remodeling the existing building.
  2. Finance the renovation with a debenture using the appraised value of the land as collateral for the mortgage financed by the debenture.

Just my two cents worth.

Reply to  ben
20 March 2022 6:54 pm

If you would like to see the town take out a mortgage for affordable housing on this site, it will cost you and I more than 2 cents. That is if you pay property tax.

Reply to  Leweez
20 March 2022 7:54 pm

read all of item 2, municipal debentures can be up to 40 years and a much lower interest rate than conventional mortgages and the collateral should be substantial. This suggestion is fully funded and possible.

And I do pay property tax – what makes you think I don’t. Property tax is paid by all residents of the Town either by home ownership or taxes paid as part of rent. Name me someone who doesn’t pay.

Just my two cents worth – not to be read literally!!!

Reply to  ben
20 March 2022 8:06 pm

Never said you did not pay property tax and do not agree that all who pay rent pay property tax

Reply to  Leweez
20 March 2022 8:13 pm


How does a renter in Cobourg not pay property tax as part of their rent?

Reply to  Bryan
20 March 2022 8:17 pm

Do they receive a bill for property taxes?

Reply to  Leweez
20 March 2022 10:38 pm


No, but why is that a factor?
Their rent is used to pay the expenses of the building: mortgage, property tax, utilities, repairs, etc

Please answer my original question.
How does a renter in Cobourg not pay property tax as part of their rent?

Reply to  ben
20 March 2022 8:23 pm

Some interesting ideas.
How would you get the County to buy the property for housing? I have difficulty seeing them having much incentive to do so.

Your Cobourg Housing Authority could be the housing version of Northam.
Would you expect the rent to be at the County subsidized level or the CMHC model like the 14 Balder units?

Reply to  Bryan
20 March 2022 9:24 pm

Actually Bryan there are two ideas in the suggestion. One would be for the people who are adamant that Housing is not a Cobourg responsibility, I would vehemently disagree but put it out there that Cobourg could help with the crisis by donating the land and facility to the County and their HA, a cooperative effort; Cobourg donates the land and the County finances and builds and administers the facility. But as the County has a County wide mandate then Cobourg should be more directly involved hence the second suggestion.

As to the question of the price of rent. I believe that the CHMC level of rent is not right and would discredit it. The County, I believe uses the more acceptable rent of 30% of gross income – whatever that is. If that means some subsidy is involved because of the renters’ low incomes then that is an acceptable social cost to me.

Reply to  ben
20 March 2022 9:44 pm

Whoa up, Bryan says renters pay their fair share of property taxes.
isn’t that right Bryan?

Reply to  Leweez
20 March 2022 10:49 pm


Renters pay their share of the building’s property tax. What is unfair about that?

Are you suggesting that low income residents who receive a rent subsidy are somehow shirking their responsibility or cheating?

Reply to  Bryan
21 March 2022 1:12 am

what I am saying is they do not pay property taxes, just like people who “rent” a room for the night at Best Western are not property taxpayers

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Leweez
21 March 2022 5:13 am

Best Western pays property taxes, along with utilities, and other business expenses. Best Western passes the expenses onto the room renters, plus extra for profit. Your assertion that they do not pay property tax is incorrect.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 March 2022 11:08 am

Exactly. Same with landlords. And landladies.

They add up all the expenses of maintaining and operating the building (plus a bit to compensate themselves for the effort and risk involved) and calculate the rent they have to charge on that basis.

That includes taxes, obviously. They pass all their costs on to the renter. If they don’t, they are subsidizing their own tenants to that extent.

Reply to  Leweez
22 March 2022 7:55 am

Renters, as other have made clear, pay property taxes indirectly with their rent payments. The costs paid by renters are not listed like the costs on a utility bill. There are people that have their rents paid directly by an organization like CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association). These people do not directly pay rent. If somebody wants to make the argument such people do not pay rent then one could also argue they do not pay property taxes. If this is fair or not it something else entirely. Personally, I prefer to be paying property taxes rather than requiring the services of the CMHA. I better go and earn some money to pay my bills. Some people on ODSP are not able to work.

Reply to  ben
20 March 2022 11:25 pm


Thanks for the clarification.
The rent amount is mostly determined by the build/renovation cost. I have been told by a developer that it is possible to build a quality structure (not lavish) in a cost effective manner that would enable lower rents, certainly at the CMHC level and perhaps closer to the County level.
I doubt the Town could do a project like this, given their propensity for budget overspending.

Reply to  Bryan
21 March 2022 10:23 am

Bryan, I am not in favour of the Town building anything like this, in fact the only thing that I can recall the Town building ‘inhouse’ is the Boardwalk – a fantastic winter project built by the Public Works in the Winter as part of their usual maintenance programmes.

So the Town would retain a project manager to coordinate construction/design and subcontract as usual through the tender process. The new Town works building conversion at Northam was built this way. The Library was built this way, with a steering committee. The CCC was built this way.

The Town would be the financial backer using Municipal means to lower the traditional cost of financing.

Reply to  ben
21 March 2022 12:34 pm


The Town’s Works/Parks building is a good example of a project gone wrong. If memory serves, the original renovation estimate was $3M. Ended up close to $6M.
Similarly the V13 renovation (excluding the Cops 2nd floor space) was to have cost less than $1M.
The cops had to “loan” V13 about $1M. This is in addition to the money Northam put in.

Reply to  Bryan
21 March 2022 1:44 pm

Bryan would it have any cheaper if the whole project had been a turnkey operation? I some how doubt it. I remember a few reno jobs that the Town did with a certain local contractor where after a couple of months we had to insist on “time and materials” because the original tender had been so far off.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
21 March 2022 3:53 pm

Is there any reason to believe that the rents collected would cover the cost of repaying the proposed debenture plus cost overruns plus building maintenance plus loss of property tax revenue plus utilities plus… Consider that Toronto Public Housing (a social housing concept similar to what you are proposing) is reported to have a repair backlog of over $1.6B which is expected to grow to over $3B in the next few years.

How about the town having no part of the project? Sell the site or even give it away. It would end up being cheaper for the taxpayers!

Reply to  Ken Strauss
21 March 2022 7:04 pm

Again Ken you know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Looking after the disadvantaged and lower income people amongst us comes at a price and one of those price tags is making sure they have a place to live.

As you know even the middle class is now being priced out of the housing market so how can those on pensions and ODSP and social assistance get housing?

Whether you like it or not structures like Toronto Housing are necessary as the private sector will not provide it.

If Social Housing is needed we should be taking a 21st Century approach to it and not just write the people who are not as affluent as yourself off just because you don’t want your tax dollars to do it.

So I treat your suggestion not to even think of a solution when it may be under your nose with disdain.

However I do look forward to discussing this topic further as you often have much to contribute, but reading your comments it appears that you choose to skip this one.


Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
21 March 2022 10:07 pm

Ben, need I repeat that social housing is the responsibility of the county rather than of Cobourg? We already have some of the highest tax rates in Ontario, the cost of everything is rapidly increasing with no moderation in sight, we are struggling to attract industry, we have significant debt and there are many millions of dollars required to repair our town’s failing infrastructure. Regardless of merit, Cobourg’s taxpayers cannot afford to fund social housing.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 March 2022 9:21 am

then vote for option # 1 in my first comment.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 March 2022 9:24 am

I read quite often about the need for social housing…I have a friend who can’t get steady workers for his rural operation “They don’t show up to work after a few days”. He has to hire Foreign Workers to keep the company in business. Ontario alone brings in about 27,000 Foreign Workers every year because too many of our Lazy Drop Outs have learned the social system of do nothing and the government will take care of you. Think about it for a few minutes…it’s the truth in many cases. Too bad the govt. doesn’t have daily work farms for some of these loafers.

Reply to  ben
22 March 2022 7:39 am


Why do you discredit the CHMC level of rent? Is it because of the way they calculate market rent? Their market rent calculation is not how much it would cost to rent a vacant apartment. It is the average rent of what people are paying. There can be a big difference. Is it because they do not include smaller buildings in their calculations? I believe a building has to have a minimum number of rental units to be included in the calculation. Is it the CHMC definition of ‘affordable’ rent that is not right? The use of the adjective affordable can be misleading in this definition. Maybe it could be called ‘reduced’ or ‘abated’ rent. Reduced from ‘market’ rent that is. We need to be careful about the words we use if we want others to understand our ideas.

Reply to  Kevin
22 March 2022 9:23 am

Is it the CHMC definition of ‘affordable’ rent that is not right?

Kevin – Yes