It is perhaps the most underutilized sports facility in the city.
That's not what the Prince George Masters Lacrosse Association envisioned when it took on the Carney Street outdoor lacrosse box at Carrie Jane Gray Park as a renovation project nearly two decades ago.
At that time, the lacrosse box was built on a grass surface with wooden boards that had become dangerously splintered from years of use as a hockey rink. The association raised close to $100,000 to have the box rebuilt in 1994 with a floor, walls, and players benches all made of concrete. Ever since that project was completed, the lacrosse box has been used only sporadically during the warmer weather months and has never been flooded for skaters.
Masters lacrosse president Glen "Moose" Scott wants the lacrosse box to become a year-round facility open to the public on a drop-in basis free of charge. He'd also like to see the city get behind a plan that would allow any community sports organization, non-profit group or individuals be given reserved access to the outdoor box for scheduled activities.
"Not everybody wants to go into the indoor arenas and pay the user fees, why can't we have an outdoor arena that everybody could use for free, and have it open for families?" said Scott.
"Kids should be able to go in there like they do on the tennis courts, just shooting the puck and having a good time. In the spring or the summer, you could have people throwing or batting a ball around until the fields are open. In the winter, you could have a burger and hot chocolate night and have people flood it and put some ice on it. The time has come to try to do something with that lacrosse box."
Scott says one solution might be to put a roof over it. That would give the city an all-weather surface to serve minor lacrosse and other summer sports like inline hockey and it would provide an additional ice rink in winter.
"If the population continues to grow we'll need another hockey rink," said Scott.
"It's way underutilized. If we could find $1.2 million [for a roof] we could probably build that into a beautiful community arena for everybody."
A storage facility with washrooms is already in place next to the lacrosse box to also serve users of the adjacent tennis courts and Rotary skate/bike park. When it was rebuilt, the lacrosse box was equipped with lights, but the wiring has since been stolen.
The rink used to be available to the public for roller hockey or ball hockey on an informal drop-in basis but it became a nighttime hangout for youths who left behind broken glass on the playing surface. To counter that, the city decided to keep the facility locked to unauthorized users.
"Minor lacrosse used the outdoor box quite a bit for their teams," said Scott. "They bought a bunch of squeegees and brooms to make sure it was OK to play on. That floor is dynamite slippery when it gets wet but they utilized it because they couldn't get into the arenas because there was so much demand on them."
Scott said the smooth concrete floor could be treated with a machine to add texture to the surface that would give users more grip when they try to run on it. Shock-absorbing membranes that work similar to the walls on NASCAR tracks could be added to the thick and unyielding cement walls to make the rink safer for sports like hockey or lacrosse. As it is now, Brad Beckett, city manager of recreation and cultural services, said the rigid concrete walls that surround the Carney Street box pose a safety hazard.
"I would think liability would be a huge issue with using that, to freeze it up and have people skating and potentially crashing into a concrete wall," Beckett said.
The city's outdoor rinks, typically built on tennis courts, are flooded and maintained by community volunteers. The city does set up the rink boards in the fall and will provide training on how to use fire hydrants. Brad Beckett, city manager of recreation and cultural services, said the city, in its push to reduce budgets, is trying to avoid inheriting facilities built by community groups that will cost money to maintain, but he's not ruling out the possibility the lacrosse box could eventually be used as a skating rink.
"That facility is under exclusive contract with the master's lacrosse group and we have no plans to do any capital works on that site," said Beckett.
"The group, if they want to do something, would have to come us with ideas and put it in writing. If the Crescents [Community Association] were to ask for that to be considered as a rink, we would, but we haven't had that request."
Scott remembers in the mid-1970s when there were at least five lacrosse boxes in the city, all of which were flooded for hockey in the winter. Now, the only outdoor rink in the city with permanent boards is in the Southridge subdivision.
"The time is just on the horizon when we should bring that Carney Street lacrosse box up to a family-oriented facility," said Scott. "Whatever we have to do to make that feasible, we should explore it."