Decrepit. Crumbling. End of the line.
Those were just a few of the thoughts running through the head of Byron Sayer as he viewed the Hassen Arena in 2010 as the newly named manager of Armstrong Spallumcheen Parks and Recreation.
Built in the 1950s as a show hall for the annual Interior Provincial Exhibition, the Hassen was converted for sports use shortly after, and housed lacrosse, hockey and figure skating.
The arena was set to be decommissioned in the 2000s after the Nor-Val Sports Centre was built.
“It (Hassen) was left for a number of years without putting money into it,” said Sayer. “We were coming into a new arena and that was going to be the end of it.
“The new arena was going to be the focus.”
Except a funny thing happened in Armstrong.
Demand for activities that required a dry floor kept coming across Sayer’s desk.
With the blessing of the Armstrong Spallumcheen Parks and Recreation, the Hassen began a renaissance.
A year-round sport court dry floor was put in over top of the concrete, allowing for such events like roller derby, year-round lacrosse, volleyball, basketball and walking.
The front exterior of the arena has been redone. The arena’s dressing rooms have been gutted and walls that were corroding and falling away have been rebuilt, repainted, refinished. New flooring is going down in Hassen’s hallways, dressing rooms and its upstairs.
“Once we lost the Hassen, we were never going to get it back,” said Sayer, who estimates the commission spent close to $100,000 on fixing up the arena.
In 2011, the city won $25,000 as the B.C. winners of the Kraft Celebration Tour, which meant TSN came to town and broadcast its popular SportsCentre show, live, from the middle of downtown Armstrong.
The Kraft money was put into Hassen renovations.
Today, the Hassen is booked, and booked a lot.
After-school programs are held in the facility. So is indoor soccer, roller derby, lacrosse – which has groups from Vernon and Salmon Arm using the arena – and club volleyball hosts tournaments.
Arguably the most popular event held in the Hassen – talk about renaissance – is roller skating.
There’s public roller skating Friday night and Sunday afternoon. On March 7, a record 112 people attended the public skate.
“We run it for two hours on Friday and usually put 80-to-100 people through in two hours,” smiled Sayer. “It’s a nice bustling couple of hours.”
Having the Hassen available at his fingertips for bookings makes Sayer’s job “100 times easier.”
“We can now play year round,” he said. “Anybody that walks in, we can accommodate them year-round, especially now that it’s heated.
“The Hassen serves a huge niche. It keeps people from going out-of-town, and it brings people into town. There’s good, economic spinoff.”