The Regional District of Central Kootenay has approved the replacement of the chiller at the Pioneer Arena at a cost of $120,000 to be paid out of reserves.
Castlegar Mayor and recreation commission chair Lawrence Chernoff said the move made sense despite the uncertain future of the aging building.
“If we don’t do this in the interim, how do we satisfy all the present needs of hockey players and figure skaters?” he asked. “If you close that facility, I don’t think we could accommodate everybody.”
The Pioneer’s previous 60-ton chiller was installed in 1984 and has received some upgrades, but according to a consultant’s report it is “badly corroded and should be decommissioned immediately.” Chernoff said if the arena does close, the new 90-ton chiller could be moved to the community complex, whose present chiller is 17 years old. It’s expected to take 12 to 14 weeks for the new chiller to arrive and be installed.
The condition and fate of the Pioneer and whether the city needs two ice surfaces will be considered as part of a recreation master plan process that will guide priorities for the next five to 10 years. Extensive public consultation is planned this fall. The plan is expected to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.
Chernoff insisted the Pioneer’s closure is not inevitable, and awaits the outcome of the master plan. A structural assessment in 2009, however, gave the building low marks and stated the chiller was already five years beyond its life expectancy.
A November 2010 referendum to decide whether the Pioneer should be replaced by twinning the ice surface at the rec complex failed. At the time, officials said the old arena would be closed if one of its components suffered a major failure.