New PoCo rec centre opens without change rooms for referees, dooming home hockey season

Port Coquitlam athletes have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the city’s new multi-million-dollar community centre, which will now be the new home of several local sports teams.

But the two arenas that opened last week as part of the centre’s first phase were built without change rooms for referees and linesmen — threatening the start of those teams’ home seasons.

Port Coquitlam Minor Hockey Association (PCMHA) president Kim Egli said she first found out about the issue on Aug. 28, a day after the centre opened its doors to the public.

“At first I thought it was a joke because I didn’t believe that would be the situation,” she said. “Then I called my director of hockey and said, ‘What are we going to do? We can’t have any home games because referees can’t come here.’”

Under Hockey Canada’s own rules, officials must have a separate dressing room that must be “equipped with a sanitary toilet and shower.”

Egli then sent a message to families of the association’s members informing them there won’t be any home games until the city comes up with a solution.

“It means that none of our kids, 500 children, will be able to play in this brand-new facility,” she said.

The $132-million Port Coquitlam Community Centre has been under construction since 2017. Its first phase is set to be fully opened between later this year and early 2020, with the unveiling of a pool and fitness centre.

The second and final phase, which is set to be completed in 2021, will add a third ice rink, a gymnasium and outdoor courts along with other amenities.

In a statement to Global News Sunday, the city said it is aware of the missing change rooms for referees, and assured it will be addressed with that second phase.

But Egli says that doesn’t help her now and is questioning how the requirement was missed by the city and the contractor.

“It’s shocking to me that someone can build a facility where there will be games — not just hockey, but also ringette, lacrosse, everything — that there’s no facilities for these referees,” she said. “Some of these officials are here three or four hours a day, and there’s nowhere for them to go to the washroom.”

While construction gets underway on the second phase, the city says it has made “temporary arrangements” for referees to share the existing dressing rooms, showers and washrooms with players.

The city will be addressing the issue with the PCMHA after the long weekend, it adds.

“If Hockey Canada requires that modifications be made to the temporary arrangements, we are committed to working with all our partners towards finding a suitable solution,” the city said.

Global News has reached out to Hockey Canada for comment.

Egli says she’s already heard from referees that they won’t be officiating games at the new arenas, citing the Hockey Canada rule.

“We’re trying to retain referees across all of minor sports,” she said. “They come under scrutiny from parents, coaches, media, everyone. Everyone blames the refs for everything. They deserve to have their own space.”

She also took issue with the temporary rooms themselves, which she described as equivalent to fitting rooms at a clothing store.

“They don’t even lock,” she said. “You would never fit three adult males in there. It’s completely unacceptable.”

As she waits to meet with the city after Labour Day, Egli says she’s hopeful a solution can be reached — but she’s not sure what that solution could be at this point.

“What they’re going to, I don’t know,” she said. “I need answers from them. Otherwise, I have 500 kids that won’t be playing at home.”

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