Renaming of Merivale Arena

Renaming of Merivale Arena
Posted on March 1, 2013 | James O'Grady | Written on March 3, 2012
Letter type:

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

I wrote this letter in response to reading Kelly Eagan's article in the Ottawa Citizen (no longer available online) regarding the renaming of Merivale Arena on behalf of Howard Darwin, in March of 2012. While I commiserate with the Darwin family in finding a proper venue to celebrate Mr. Darwin as a City builder, I don't believe Merivale Arena was the right choice for him or for the residents of Nepean. His name should grace the Civic Centre or the Ottawa Baseball Stadium. Nothing less is adequate or appropriate.

At the same time, I believe Merivale Arena, if it needed to be renamed at all, should have been named after one of the many great hockey players from Nepean who grew up playing at Merivale Arena. NHLers like Jeff Brown and Jamie Baker who grew up right behind it, or Darren Pang and Freddy Braithwaite, both former NHL goaltenders who played for the Nepean Raiders. Pang won a Memorial Cup with the 67's back in the 1980's.

The suggestion I make to improve the public consultation process is based on the process that was used to rename the Glebe Community Centre. Now that internet communications are so prevalent, there is no reason to deny residents the right to participate in the (re)naming of buildings, roads and institutions in their communities. Especially, those that have deep connections with the local community, like Merivale Arena.

I agree with both Jeff Darwin, Howard Darwin's son, and with Ottawa Citizen journalist Kelly Egan, on their assessment of the renaming of Merivale arena.

As Mr. (Jeff) Darwin wrote in Saturday's Citizen, the residents of Ottawa should decide whether or not they think Merivale Arena is adequate recognition for his father. While there is no doubt Howard Darwin is worthy of it, he is also worthy of a having a more prestigious building named after him. Merivale Arena is a small, local, community based single pad rink in Nepean. As the long time owner of the Ottawa 67's and founder of the AAA Baseball Ottawa Lynx, Howard Darwin was a pillar of Ottawa's sporting community for many years.

What I find disingenuous about this public consultation process, however, is that Howard Darwin's name was not only put forward by itself but was also announced publicly before the public consultation process began or was announced to the residents of Ward 9: Knoxdale-Merivale in Nepean, where Merivale arena is situated. Since the people living in Nepean are the most likely to be interested in the renaming of this community building, I find it mind boggling that this can happen when it seems so simple for the City, with its $2 Billion dollar+ budget, to implement a fair, open and transparent public consultation process that engages the community in a community building activity, rather than creating anger and disappointment around what should be a very positive event.

Like the mistake the City of Ottawa made when it tried to rename Robertson Road in Bell's Corners last year (2011), this process will have to start anew if it is to be done correctly.

Here is what I suggest:

1. The City of Ottawa announces a new public consultation process will take place for the renaming of Merivale Arena. At the same time, the City asks for nominations to come forward from the public (4-6 weeks).

I can think of three former NHLers off the top of my head, who grew up playing hockey at Merivale arena in the Nepean Minor Hockey Association (NMHA) and who have given back to the local community in many ways. Any of these people would be very deserving of this honour. They are Jamie Baker, Jeff Brown and Darren Pang.

2. The City develops a website featuring all of the nominated candidates and allows for the public to vote online like many online contest do now. See the 'Great Places in Canada' contest for an example:

3. When public voting closes after 3-4 weeks, a motion recommending the winner of the contest goes to Council for approval.

This is a very simple, clean, fair, open and transparent way of conducting a public consultation. Most importantly, this approach will help build community because people will engage in the 'positive' act of voting FOR their favorite choice rather than having to vote on the appropriateness of renaming Merivale Arena after Howard Darwin. Something that may end up becoming a referendum on Howard Darwin--the man--rather than a celebration of his contribution to our great City.


James O'Grady
Nepean Resident

About The Author

James OGrady's picture

I am a social media entrepreneur, communications professional, part-time school teacher and community leader living in Nepean, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack and most importantly, an advocate... More