Repairs to the ice floor of the arena at the Castlegar and District Community Complex will begin this spring, closing the space for about six months.
The $1.65-million project is being done to address recurring brine leaks. Brine, a non-toxic salt water solution, is the refrigerant that flows through pipes embedded in the concrete. When these pipes leak, the cooling capacity is lost until the pipes can be repaired.
When the floor was installed in 1976, it was expected to have a 35-to-40-year life span. That expired seven years ago.
Staff have already made numerous repairs to leaking pipes, primarily in the floor at the east end of the arena where the brine lines exit through the board footings.
For the current ice season, a special sealant was added to the brine in the hopes that it would keep the lines functional through spring.
The new system will also use brine, but will be an updated trenchless-header system, according to Regional District of Central Kootenay operations manager Craig Stanley.
It will be at the same elevation as the current floor and reuse the existing glass and boards, but the pipes will be embedded in the concrete.
The project was scheduled for spring and summer to have as little impact on ice users as possible. But it will still affect several user groups such as West Kootenay Minor Lacrosse and the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s own summer camps. It has also prompted the cancellation of the 2023 West Kootenay Trade Show and will not be available for events.
The lacrosse association’s entire season will have to be relocated. The older age groups (10 and up) will be practicing at the Rossland arena, which is a bit of a trek as the team encompasses players from across the region, including Nelson. The younger age groups will be practicing at Stanley Humphries Secondary School.
Stanley says the project should be completed with new ice ready for use by Oct. 15. So it will also likely affect the Castlegar Rebels’ early season.
With the 2023-24 KIJHL season scheduled to begin Sept. 22, Rebels president Mike Johnstone says, “We would need a couple weeks of pre-season games and training camp before that. We would need to be on the ice at the beginning of September.”
Stanley said that if necessary the Pioneer Arena season could be extended, but that arena is somewhat weather dependent and usually only open October through February.
Financing for the project is still yet to be determined. The RDCK has applied for a Strategic Priorities Fund grant through the Union of BC Municipalities to cover the costs, but has yet to hear if they were successful.
“We are hopeful, but not counting on it,” said Stanley.
The budget includes engineering, construction and project management costs. If the grant does not come through, the district will need to use taxation and borrowing to finance the project.
The contract is currently out for tender with a closing date of Feb. 8, but work is scheduled to begin March 15.