Monday, December 13, 2010

York Arena's future is on thin ice - Recreation Councillors balk at $3.9-M price tag to bring building up to code
(excerpts from article published in the Daily Gleaner, December 11/10)

Fredericton city councillors are starting to divide over what to do with York Arena.

City council recently approved in principle a plan to spend $147,982to keep the arena's doors open for the next year and a half. A recent report said the building will need $3.9 million just to meet building codes. There has been robust debate about how much money should go into a structure that the city might tear down.

Some councillors wanted to halve the proposed capital spending to only $38,500 for repairing the rink's ice-making compressor and $23,000 to deal with ammonia leaks that could pose a safety concern, but a motion was defeated. Another $85,698 is needed to reinforce the roof of the structure and to shore up masonry walls.
Community services director Wayne Tallon told council that if it doesn't direct him to push ahead with roof reinforcements, the city will have to come up with policies on snow loads and keep a close eye on the building to ensure it's safe.

Tallon said ADI Ltd., which was asked to undertake an update of its 2004 analysis of the condition of the arena, identified the lateral support/masonry wall reinforcement issue as an immediate need. The rink's ice-making compressor is being held together with Band-Aid solutions, Tallon said. "We can't afford to have the ice plant go, because that will reduce our inventory (of rinks) to three ice sheets," Tallon said.

Deputy mayor Dan Keenan suggested the repair money be put into the budget, but that council make a determination of when to spend that money. "My intention and my hope would be that we can address the York Arena issue so that we can continue to operate that facility ... I'll be clear, my hope would be that we continue to operate York Arena after (the) Grant * Harvey (Centre) opens," Keenan said.

Finance committee chairman Mike O'Brien has stated he doesn't support keeping the arena over the long term. "In the future, I think we've spent enough on ice facilities and there's other pressing needs for recreation," O'Brien said. He said keeping York Arena open would cost about $250,000 per year more than it collects in revenues.

It has always been the city's plan to build new ice rinks, demolish the old ones and put the resulting budget savings on capital repairs and operating expenses into the cost of running the new indoor ice hockey rinks. "I prefer not to spend on renovating an old ice facility, and instead start saving (and) planning for an aquatics facility that will be used by many more taxpayers," he said.

O'Brien said he doesn't dispute arguments that extra ice time would be used, but there are other taxpayers who favour non-ice sports and as the city ages, there will be more demand for water and court sports, along with walking and biking trails, than for ice hockey arenas.

A Save the York Arena group has put together a report for the city showing that there's high demand for ice time, and that without the York Arena the city will be in an ice-rink deficit just to meet current sports demands.

Tallon said ADI's revised figures on the cost of bringing York Arena up to building code - and excluding any other upgrades - would be $3.9 million. Part of the reason for the higher cost compared with ADI's 2004 estimate is that a new building code has come into effect, which sets different standards on the public building, Tallon said.

"This ADI report does not contain any enhancements to the building," Tallon said.

To read the entire article, click on the following link

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