Demolition of the old Civic Arena on 37th Avenue kicked into high gear on Saturday with the front extension structure coming down.
The front section of the addition came down in pieces as the deft control of the excavator operator pulled and crushed the walls and roof in sections.
As the blade cut into the roof, and the excavator pulled across the structure, the beams and plywood snapped and crunched and gave way under the pressure. Masses of rubble were clouded in the dust as the historic structure was pulled apart.
Gary Polachek, of Dakota Reclmators Ltd., predicted the team would attack the main shell of the arena by the end of the month.
So much work was done internally before today on elements like asbestos and fixture removal that it would be easy to assume demolition had only started this weekend.
“This is day 10 or 11 of the project, and we’re on schedule to move onto the main building by the end of October,” Polachek said.
History of the demolition decision
After reviewing numerous options in 2017, Vernon city council decided to pursue demolition of the arena, the oldest such facility in the Okanagan which opened in 1938.
The move came after council received a structural building assessment and cost estimates associated with reusing the building.
“The reports indicated given the state of the 80-year-old building, reuse would be technically challenging and very costly,” states the city in a press release. “The Civic Arena would require significant upgrades in order to repurpose it.”
Reports indicated that bringing the building into compliance with the Building Code to a basic shell building would be an estimated $11-12 million. New construction for the same basic shell facility would be $8-9 million. The estimates did not include any interior finishing or upgrades related to a future use.
Discussions about the future of the Civic Arena were sparked by the new ice surface expansion at Kal Tire Place (targeted opening date of Sept. 1, 2018). Once complete, the Civic Arena will no longer be used as an ice surface.
The Civic Arena hosted the 1956 Allan Cup Canadian Senior Hockey Championship (won in five games by the hometown Vernon Canadians), the 1978 Canadian Senior B Lacrosse Championships (won by the hometown Vernon Tigers) and the 1990 Centennial Cup Canadian Junior A Hockey Championship (won 6-5 in overtime by the hometown Vernon Lakers over the New Westminster Royals).
The old barn has also hosted rock concerts, boy scout ice jamborees, legendary basketball team the Harlem Globetrotters, and has been the permanent home of the Vernon Coca-Cola Classic Pee Wee Invitational Hockey Tournament during the Vernon Winter Carnival since the tournament’s inception in the 1970s.
City staff are expected to outline a process for demolition early in the new year, including the salvage and reuse of materials, specifically the big timber trusses in the building, cost estimates for demolition and potential funding sources.
Council vetoed a staff recommendation to bring together a “diverse spectrum of the public, including youth and the tourism advisory committee,” and design a future park to be developed on the arena site.
“I think we should demolish the building, then wait. We’ve got enough to do. Actually, we’re behind; we’re overworked,” said Coun. Brian Quiring. “I don’t want to start another process or rush into anything here.”
Coun. Catherine Lord called for a public participation process.
“I don’t like designing a future park,” she said. “I want to leave that open to public participation, and not just specifically having the site as a park.”
Council unanimously supported Quiring’s motion to defer the site’s future for one year.
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