The long wait for ice at the Claude Parish Memorial Arena could be over this week.
The new ammonia plant passed its safety inspection and was cleared for operation last week, confirmed Gerald Pinchbeck, the district’s chief administrative officer.
Ice installation is currently underway and, as of press time, the ice rink is expected to be open to the public on Friday, said Pinchbeck, adding that’s pending no complications with ice installation.
The delay in ice installation is due to setbacks, including compressors for the new plant arriving weeks later than originally scheduled, and a first round of tenders being in excess of what the district had budgeted to replace the existing but aging plant.
The delay meant problems for user groups, including the Houston Figure Skating Club, which moved its hosting of the the Kla How Ya, an event that attracts skaters from all over the region, to Smithers.
Local ringette players have also been affected by the delay, with some players travelling to Burns Lake once a week to practice.
“This places a great burden on parents and players,” an email from the Houston Ringette Association stated in October. “Many other ringette associations are on the ice at the start of September, so the delay puts all of our players at a disadvantage when we go to tournaments.”
Due to the delay, the municipality made the arena floor available for dryland training and other uses at no charge.
The ammonia plant replacement follows an incident in Fernie in October 2017 in which three people were killed because of an ammonia leak at the local arena. That prompted a province-wide inspection of refrigeration plants with many placed on the list for replacement to meet new standards.
Connection with curling rink not confirmed
Plans to connect the arena’s new ammonia plant with the adjacent curling rink are still being discussed, said Pinchbeck.
The curling rink’s ammonia plant was taken out of service last year after it failed an inspection by Technical Safety B.C., the authority responsible for boilers and refrigeration plants.
Council is yet to approve the proposed connection, said Pinchbeck, noting the proposal involves the loaning of public funds to a third party (the Houston Curling Club).
If approved, the Curling Club is expected to reimburse the district over time for the connection, which is estimated to cost $80,000. Pinchbeck added this figure is still being reviewed as part of discussions with the club.
—With files from Rod Link