Since the City of Prince Rupert announced that the only ice arena in the community would not be open until November, winter sports groups have had to find a solution to make up for practices and the city has had to form an idea on how to make up for the lost revenue.
Prince Rupert’s director of recreation and community services, Rudy Kelly, met with members from the Prince Rupert Minor Hockey Association, the Prince Rupert Skating Club, the Rupert Rampage and the Mixed Recreation League late last week and discussed the possibility of keeping the arena open later in the spring to make up the lost time.
“The users seemed quite agreeable with that. Hopefully that would make up some of the lost revenue and accommodate some of the inconvenience for them,” he said.
“The good thing about the meeting was that the users were all very understanding and willing to work along with it. I was glad to see that because obviously it’s pretty inconvenient for them.”
Ideally skaters would start practicing in the beginning of September, however this year skaters will have to train on dry ground for the first part of the season.
Luckily this year, the club’s first competitive will be in December instead of its usual time in October, but that still only gives skaters one month to practice.
Head coach of the club, Sheri Pringle, says that keeping the arena open later in the spring would be beneficial to skaters.
“We could go well into May or June. We would make it work. Unfortunately the competitions are already over in February, but you could then start building for the next year,” she said, mentioning that there are usually 80 to 90 skaters in all of the club’s programs.
Youth in the Prince Rupert Minor Hockey Association generally start practicing on ice in mid-September, with competitions happening before November for older teams.
Gene Storey, president of the association, says that practices running later in the spring could be beneficial, however it could also interfere with players who participate in other springtime activities such as soccer.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t have the ice until a little later but there’s not much we can do about it,” he said.
As for the Prince Rupert Rampage hockey team of the Central Interior Hockey League, they will also be doing dry-land practices until November, with the first scheduled home game to take place on November 3.
The closure of the arena is caused by a mechanical failure with the chiller, which is the piece of equipment that makes the ice. Bill Horne, acting city manager, explained that “there is a brine that goes through some pipes, and those pipes are surrounded by ammonia, but the pipes have rusted out and the ammonia is seeping into the brine”.
The chiller was around 30 to 40 years old according to Kelly, with a new chiller expected to cost around $120,000 before taxes.
“It’s just one of those things. [Equipment] just goes sometimes. It’s like a hot water heater, no one replaces it until it goes. It wasn’t foreseeable,” commented Kelly.
Kelly explained that when the ice is back in the arena depends on the company that is designing the new chiller.
“If they are able to get it done quicker we could open up the arena in late October,” he said.