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This House will be closed for the season

A need to adpot safety regulations means there will be no curling in Prince Rupert this year
This will be the scene at the curling rink this year while the club upgrades its facilities to meet safety standards. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

A need to upgrade their facilities means that the Prince Rupert Curling Club will not be able to offer playing services this season. The club is expected to be closed until at least next September while they get up to code.

The club currently operates an ammonia based plant, however regulations surrounding operation of this type of plant were stressed after three people died following an ammonia leak at a Fernie hockey arena in 2017.

Following the incident, WorkSafeBC and Technical Safety B.C. sent out statements reminding owners of safety standards for ammonia based plants, including the rule that an operator must be on sight to monitor any plant that runs at 50 kilowatts per hour or more.

These stones will be sitting on the sidelines for the next 12 months. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

For Curling Club president Natasha Lebedick, the mounting costs surrounded with bringing their ammonia plant up to speed simply became too much to bear.

“Our ice crew worked super hard and diligently to do those upgrades over the last two years to keep our plant going,” Lebedick said. “But we’re at a spot right now that we’re not quite done with the upgrades. I don’t think I could run it safely and legally right now.”

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Lebedick thinks the plant could potentially operate under 50 kw/h, but even to start it up to test this would require a large investment. Lebedick says there is a leak in the plant’s chiller, which would need to be replaced prior to testing. Even if the plant were to operate just under the 50 kw/h mark, if it ever hit that number a limit switch would shut down the plant automatically, and require an operator to start it up again.

Curling Club president Natasha Lebedick is optimistic that the club can raise the funds necessary for a new plant in the next year. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Lebedick and the club’s board have therefore turned their attention for the next year to fundraising for a new non-ammonia based plant. The solution will likely be a Freon-based system, which will cost approximately $200,000. Terrace paid the same price to install their new Freon plant last year, following a similar need to upgrade their facilities.

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“I’m sure it’s disappointing to all our members, but ultimately we have to go forward with a new plant,” Lebedick said. “We want to remain independent, and to do that we need to get a non-ammonia based plant.”

The club will be examining all their options to raise the money, and have already conducted some grant writing with the assistance of the city. The rest of the facilities at the curling rink will remain open over the next year, including the bar and restaurant and the events hall.

Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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