Windsor

Girls get their dressing room at Ridgetown Arena but official says it's 'too small'

A new dressing room has been created for female hockey players at an arena in Ridgetown, Ont. following widespread condemnation after they were bumped out by an all-boys team. The only problem is the room is too small, according to a league official.

Renovated hockey association office will not fit more than 3 players, says Shawn Allen

The South Kent Minor Hockey Association believes their office will be too small to fit more than three or four girls once bathroom facilities are added. (Shawn Allen)

A new dressing room has been created for female hockey players at an arena in Ridgetown, Ont. following widespread condemnation after they were bumped out by an all-boys team.

The only problem is the room is too small, according to a league official.

The new dressing room, at the East Kent Memorial Arena, is actually the office of the South Kent Minor Hockey Association (SKMHA). Work to transform the 3.6 by 2.1 metre office began Wednesday morning, according to association president Shawn Allen.

That's despite SKMHA board members voting against the decision by the municipality of Chatham-Kent to displace the association, said Allen.

"We've clearly said that area is not going to work and then the municipality goes and clears our stuff out," he explained. "I understand it's their room ultimately because it's in their facility, but we've been using it for four seasons and between weekend ice and tournament ice, we spend about $50,000 a year, just at the Ridgetown arena."

Allen said while the hockey association has been advocating for a dressing room for weeks, the small space now under construction will not be big enough for more than three girls once a shower, toilet and sink is added.

New room to be ready by Jan. 8

The move by the municipality comes after a decision to lease the lone dressing room used by female players in the coed league to the Chatham-Kent Cyclones, a AAA boys team who wanted a room of their own.

The female players where then shuttled between several small rooms at the arena including one with a door to the lobby that would allow anyone standing outside to look in whenever the door swung open.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is promising to build a new dressing room for female hockey players at a Ridgetown, Ont. arena after they were bumped from their space to make way for an all-boys team. (Shawn Allen)

Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser weighed in on the decision, calling it "crap" on Twitter. Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope apologized and said moving the players was not done to make them feel "inadequate."

The municipality promised to build a new dressing room with "equitable amenities" by Jan. 8.

"The new change room will accommodate up to 8 girls, and it meets the Ontario Recreation Facilities Association recommendations for proper square footage for dressing rooms," wrote CAO Don Shropshire in a statement to CBC Wednesday, adding there are currently "less than 20 girls" playing in the league.

He admitted the municipality "could have done a better job" speeding up renovations to the room, but that "the suggestion that Chatham-Kent has not supported our female hockey players has been grossly unfair."

The only solution that won't cost the municipality money and construction time, according to Allen, will be to let the female players back into their original dressing room.

"The [municipality] says they have quotes for $5,000 to $10,000 to renovate our office," he said. "If our office was big enough to do the job, as an organization ... we would be OK with not having an office, but when you're taking our office space away and changing it into something that's not going to work that doesn't make sense."

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