By Greg Price
Taber Recreation Board got a look into various options addressing the small ice arena.
Back in February, council allocated funds for the purpose of having MPE Engineering complete an investigative study regarding options for further enhancement of the existing small ice area or the development of a new arena.
Peter Goertzen from MPE Engineering made a presentation to the recreation board at its July 11 meeting where four options were explored, including: direct replacement, expansion of the current building to the north to allow for a regulation-sized ice surface, expansion to regulation size with current curling rink space and a new separate rink connected by a corridor.
The small ice arena is approximately 40 years old in which Goertzen noted various aspects of the rink are in visibly poor condition which present operational and safety issues.
“The rink is very tight for the area it serves. A major issue is the shape of the boards which makes it difficult for the Zamboni to properly resurface the entire area. Even with them trying to tighten the corner there, you end up having to manually finish the corners which causes a lot of extra time for the maintenance staff to resurface the ice in that area,” said Goertzen.
“Another issue with the boards in general is the height. Newer boards are typically slightly lower, mainly for adults so that if their heads when they get pushed into the boards are not impacting the corners and new dash boards have rounded corners to lessen the impact.”
Goertzen also cited general building code issues involving the fire alarm and ventilation.
The physical condition of the existing dasher boards is poor, with cracking visible in the board throughout, and gaps in the boards near the corners and gates according to the MPE report. The concrete slab for the ice is 40 years old and is cracked in several places and is not level, requiring the difference to be made up with thicker ice; reducing the efficiency of the ice slab cooling.
“It’s a fairly large percentage of the ice surface that ends up having to be filled in because there is a hump in the centre,” said Goertzen, adding the slab is at its expected end-of-life cycle for replacement. “The general condition of the slab is in fair to poor condition. It’s operating, it’s not like you can’t use the facility, but we are concerned about the long-term condition of that ice surface. You won’t be able to maintain the slab for the next 25 years. The next five to 10, you may be OK.”
Looking at direct replacement, MPE Engineering gave an estimate of $1.58 million for the project including contingency which would include replacing the existing dasher boards, replacement of the concrete slab, replacement of spectator stands, addition of another fire egress to meet current building codes, adjustment of the access to the existing change room, upgrades to the fire alarm system, installation of low-E ceiling to improve the building envelope, replacement of scoreboard and sound system and upgrades to the existing heating and ventilation system.
“This is the simplest solution and maintains the existing envelope space that you have and it is definitely the lowest cost option. But as discussed, it’s not going to be regulation size. We can fix the boards to improve the ability for adults to use the space more effectively, but it will not be a regulation rink that you can rent out at full rate,” said Goertzen, adding the same issues involving the Zamboni will remain with increased times for maintenance along with poor sight lines for spectators. “You can still rent it out for rec hockey, that is the point of changing the dasher boards, it makes it safe enough. The concern is the marketability of an ice surface is the size to make it rentable to any group.”
While safety concerns were voiced with contact hockey involving adults on the large ice, recreation board member Rene Angermeier noted he likes how the small ice encourages participation among various skill levels.
“I like the small ice, it gets guys out. The guys that hardly play can play with the guys that can really skate, not having far to go. It’s a good equalizer,” said Angermeier.
The second option is expanding the envelope of the small ice rink to the north into the existing parking area, allowing for the ability to increase the size of the rink to NHL regulation size. The roof structure would nee dot be redesigned for the entire space. All the upgrades for option two, with many the same as the direct replacement are estimated at $3.99 million including contingency with additional electrical work required.
“It’s still a lot of area to expand on the building for a usable ice surface that is full regulation. It is an option that creates problems structurally because the roof slopes down,” said Goertzen. “One of the benefits of the design is we re-use a lot of the building’s footprint and we don’t have to worry about putting more services out to the building. There is still a number of site work to maintain and there is a fair bit of cost to extend the building.”
One drawback of the expansion to the north is there would likely be a shutdown of the small- ice surface, making it unavailable for a portion of the hockey season.
“I don’t think we could do all the work within your summer season,” said Goertzen. “You would lose a lot of your parking in the north, but I don’t know how much that is utilized.”
An option that looks like was the least favourable according to rec board reaction was expanding the small ice to near regulation size (one metre short of 200-metre) to the south into curling rink space. The curling rink would need to be displaced to another location or as an extension to the existing complex. The option would use the existing building envelope, however, it would require significant structural modifications due to the load bearing nature of the wall between the curling rink and small ice. Also, modifications would also be needed for the existing ice plant system. The cost for the third option was estimated at $2.71 million, not factoring in the construction of a new curling arena on the same site which would be $2.5 million.
“It’s going to make a lot of curlers upset, but we looked at it because curling is diminishing. That curling slab will likely have the same issues anyway,” said Goertzen.
“That option really doesn’t give you the fall cost because you have to add on a $2.5 million (on site) to $4 million (new site) cost for a new curling rink,” said Randy Sparks, town councillor and recreation board member.
The last option presented was a new separate building north of the existing small arena, for a regulation-sized rink with an estimated cost of $6.51 million. The building would be connected by a corridor to allow for re-use of existing dressing rooms and washroom facilities within the existing complex. The existing ice plant would be able to maintain a rink of that size, however would not have the capacity to start up both rinks simultaneously. The option would require modification of the slab cooling system and the ice plant may need to be modified if the existing small ice arena is to be maintained as an ice arena, and the estimated cost does not take into account upgrading the existing space as outlined in option one.
Although the two buildings will be connected with the corridor, Merrill Harris, M.D. of Taber councillor and Taber recreation board member inquired if the existing dressing rooms could accommodate an extra arena.
“We operate that small ice during the weekdays and the weekends and we have sufficient enough dressing rooms to run the calibre of hockey we use right now. There may be an increased load, but we still have room to grow on the dressing room side,” replied Trent Smith, recreation manager for the Town of Taber.
In the report, it was recommended that the Town of Taber pursue option four: construction of a new building for a full-sized arena. Compared to all other options, the greatest advantage of option four is it gives the greatest ability to control the design of the new arena space to match the desired ice surface. It also has the advantage of maintaining the existing small ice arena as operable during construction.
Any of the options presented will be seen as a 40-year investment into the facility. The population of Taber and surrounding communities is approximately 9,500 according to the report and has seen a four per cent increase in the last five years. At this population growth in 40 years, Taber will have an estimated population of 13,000 which will then be comparative to Brooks which has two full-sized rinks with a population of 14,500.
“We literally have 1.5 ice surfaces right now. We are making use of both and it looks like in about five years we may be limited. We have that dilemma where we’d like to have at least one-and-a-half ice surfaces and we have to do something,” said Andrew Prokop, mayor of Taber and recreation board member. “That is the dilemma, what is justifiable and what is not? But you have to also not look at a five year plan, but a 50-year plan going down the road. Our growth is limited right now and no we are not at Brooks’ level and we won’t be for quite some time, but where do you draw the line?”
“I hope that if a second full sized arena is ever brought in, that the small ice is not an option anymore and is taken right out of the picture and utilized for something different,” said Sparks. “If we are going to build a second ice surface, we want to expand it into some summer things, trade shows, all different types of stuff. You can’t just focus on the ice part of it. There are other things we are hoping to bring in to utilize that space for non-ice times.”
With two recreation board members missing (Danielle Hansen and Joel Mills) and with such lengthy discussion, the options will be revisited in the recreation board’s September meeting as the board looks to bring forward their recommendation. The recreation board accepted the MPE Engineering report as information.
Currently there are no funds allocated for either an upgrade or further development of a new facility. Should the recreation board wish to proceed with one of the options, a recommendation for a budget allocation would be required.
“There are a lot of things we could do if we had a money tree in the back. We have to remember that registrations in hockey and in curling is dropping, but still we do have a small ice arena that could be in some real need soon, so we have to decide on that,” said Sparks.