Residents vote on future of new ice sheet
Ice sports could abandon Vernon’s Civic Arena.
The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee approved a motion Tuesday to hold a November referendum to fund a replacement sheet of ice and decommission Civic Arena as an ice facility.
“The public should have the opportunity to weigh in on whether to keep the building (for ice sports) and the liabilities or replace it,” said director Doug Dirk.
The next step will be to determine costs and the location of a proposed ice sheet, whether it is twinning Kal Tire Place or Priest Valley Arena.
It could cost between $9.1 and $14.5 million for a Civic-sized facility depending on building materials, but City of Vernon staff have suggested costs could be reduced because another 2,000-seat arena is not needed in the community. Four hundred seats is more likely and a basic arena could be $5 million.
An engineering assessment was recently conducted of the 1938 Civic Arena, plus a 1979 renovation. The report suggests it would cost $1.5 million to replace the slab surface, which is at risk from a deteriorating brine (refrigeration) system.
“We are rolling the dice every time we put ice in the arena,” said Doug Ross, the city’s recreation manager.
The engineering report also says an immediate $100,000 in life and safety upgrades would be needed if Civic remains open while short-term upgrades of $5.6 million would be needed in two to five years.
Ross says Civic Arena currently has a $160,000 annual operating deficit because of staffing and mechanical challenges, and that would disappear with a new facility.
If something isn’t done to plan for a new arena, there are concerns an emergency could occur at Civic and ice time would be lost as happened in Armstrong a few years ago.
“We don’t want to wait until it fails,” said Dirk.
The move towards a referendum and additional burden on taxpayers is raising concern for some directors, including Gyula Kiss.
“There’s going to be another referendum for $70 million for the master water plan so it will be a double-whammy for residents.”
If Civic Arena is no longer needed for ice sports, the City of Vernon, as the building owner, would consider if other uses could occur there or if the structure would be demolished. The property is designated for park.