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Orillia invests $12.4 million to upgrade one of its oldest buildings

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The City of Orillia plans to extend the life of one of its oldest buildings with a $12.4 million renovation project.

The Brian Orser Arena on Gill Street was initially called the Twin Lakes Arena when it was built in 1974, and according to the City, it's in need of some improvements..

"It's important to be able to have our community come together and, you know, mutually experience something that is going to be positive for the community," says Chris Mercer, who spent part of the day playing his guitar in the city's downtown.

Paul Barnetson has run the arena for almost 30 years and says the building and many like it are a big part of the community.

"They are a gathering point for families to come together, and the kids come together; it's ingrained in them. They grow up in these buildings, and then they come back," says Barnetson.

The renovation project is expected to begin this summer.

"We'll be looking specifically at replacing the ice pad and the refrigeration system, the bench, the bleachers, updates to the change rooms, the exterior of the facility, and roofing improvements, all to be completed with energy-efficient options," says Roger Young with the City of Orillia.

When the work begins, the city will have just two rinks for user groups. All teams using the Brian Orser rink will be moved to the Rotary Place arena.

Hockey, figure skating and lacrosse groups are preparing for the short-term move.

"It's going to continue to provide a spot for kids to go and be able to use it for all sorts of sports, not just hockey, figure skating, and lacrosse, but let's spend it," says Christy Scheffel with Orillia Lacrosse.

The City approved the multi-million-dollar renovation project as part of the 2024 Capital Budget.

After the extensive upgrades are completed, the City expects the Brian Orser Arena's lifespan will increase by roughly 25 years.

Staff hope to have the arena operational for the 2025-26 season.

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