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Design panel, city of Toronto butt heads over hockey rink design Add to ...

Designers of a four-pad waterfront hockey arena say they're in the middle of weighing options to reduce the building's footprint even as a blue-ribbon panel of architects appointed to review waterfront designs accused the city of mistreating its valuable shores by going ahead with "suburban" design in an urban setting.

The contentious surface parking spots included in the original design have already been halved to about 200 from 440, said Daniel Herljevic, project manager with Rounthwaite, Dick and Hadley Architects, the group commissioned by the city to design the four-pad hockey arena.

"The configuration that's been floating around has been scrapped, actually. We're absolutely not putting 440 surface spots on the site."

The arena, which has been in the works for seven years, has been the target of acrimony amid plans for a drastic revisioning of Toronto's waterfront.

At a meeting Wednesday, the 12-member panel tasked with reviewing Waterfront Toronto's designs for the Lower Don Lands issued a letter accusing the city of compromising the vision and potential for the entire area.

The panel is calling on the city to change both the location of the arena and its design: The only draft made public so far would spread the four ice pads out at ground level, which the panel has said "directly contradicts" the city's plans for the Lower Don Lands, which are one of the Clinton Climate Initiative's 17 "climate positive" projects worldwide.

"What are you designing? Why? What are the goals you're really trying to achieve?" asked architect and panel chair Bruce Kuwabara.

"We're saying you can't do anything you want: There is a lot of creative capital and investment in thinking through the award-winning plan."

But that original design is already essentially obsolete, Mr. Herljevic said. RDH is working on three potential stacking options.

Each of the three is a different combination of one 1,000-person arena and three 250-person arenas, Mr. Herljevic said.

The only North American precedent for multiple hockey rinks stacked on top of each other is in Shelton, Conn., where a double-decker sports centre seats 1,500 people on ground level and 150 in a second rink above.

Stacking the four rinks would cut the estimated 12,000 square metre area of the site by about half.

All the designs would include the same amount of parking, designed to be surface lots until the sites are developed (likely for mixed-use purposes) and the same number of spaces accommodated in those new buildings.

The Waterfront Secretariat's acting project director Jayne Naiman said the city is costing out both stacked and spread out designs for the four ice pads. But numbers likely won't be public for at least a month. Ottawa has pledged $34-million toward a rink, but whatever the city chooses will cost tens of millions more, she said.

"We are looking at alternatives in response to the design community's concerns," she said. "They will be put through various lenses of scrutiny, including design, financial and operational."

In the meantime, resident representative Julie Beddoes said she'd like to see some more progressive plans.

"I'm a hockey grandmother and I know how difficult it is to get ice time. Our community has always supported a rink," she said at the Waterfront Toronto meeting she attended to vent her frustration.

"I'm totally appalled the city seems to regard the port lands as just a place to dump anything."

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