The 61-year-old Pioneer Arena won’t be able to re-open without repairs. Photo: John Boivin

The 61-year-old Pioneer Arena won’t be able to re-open without repairs. Photo: John Boivin

Castlegar arena to get life-extending work

Engineers recommended significant safety upgrades to Pioneer

The Regional District of Central Kootenay is going to try to squeeze a few more years of ice sports out of the Pioneer Arena.

The recreation commission for Castlegar and area voted in June to spend nearly $93,000 on much-needed safety upgrades to the 61-year-old facility.

The work addresses problems with the arena highlighted by engineers in a provincial sweep of ice sports facilities, done after the 2017 deaths of three workers in Fernie. Workers there died when the ammonia-charged system leaked, killing them with poisonous gas.

Three different government agencies examined the operation of all arenas in the district following the tragedy. Strong Refrigeration Consultants was hired to conduct a review of the refrigeration systems, while WorkSafe BC and Technical Safety BC also conducted reviews of their own.

“Although the [Pioneer] refrigeration system does not fall within the ‘risk assessed plants’ of Technical Safety BC due to the plant size, there are still a number of safety items that should be completed to ensure the safety of the public and staff,” says a report by recreation manager Jim Crockett.

Among the main work to be done includes turning an office area into a vestibule separating the plant from the office, and allowing the installation of an emergency shower and eye wash station. The plant room also needs crash hardware on its doors, to be properly sealed and have fire-rated drywall throughout.

The ventilation system currently vents to the parking lot. It will need upgrades to disperse gasses in a safer manner.

“The Pioneer has long served the community,” writes Crockett, and “if the facility is going to be operated, even if it is only a few more seasons, this work needs to be completed for the safety of all involved.”

Technical Safety BC would not have allowed the arena to re-open this fall without the needed repairs.

Staff budgeted for the work in their 2018 financial plan. Money will likely come from reserves.

The project won’t extend the expected life of the facility or improve its operations. The commission has already decided if there’s a major failure in the plant, the facility will be closed permanently.