VERNON - As the conversation around a new ice rink in Vernon continues to move ahead, some are wondering what that means for the historic arena it would be replacing.
When the Civic Arena was constructed in 1938, it was the first indoor ice rink in the Okanagan Valley. In April of that year, the Vernon Curling Club held its first annual Okanagan Valley Bonspiel in the newly constructed arena. It was the first time local curlers played on artificial ice.
And while it was modern then, it’s now starting to show its age. An engineering report released in March of 2014 revealed a number of problems with the building and the expensive renovations required to keep it running. The report also noted the facility is liable to fail at any time.
Local government is now looking at twinning — adding a second ice sheet — at Kal Tire Place and decommissioning the Civic Arena. A referendum on the matter was delayed last year, and while it's still awaiting approval from the provincial government, it could likely be put to voters this November.
As for what happens to Civic Arena in the event the referendum goes ahead and is endorsed by the public, Coun. Juliette Cunningham says it’s too soon to say.
“Once it’s decommissioned as an arena, we’d like to look at different options and probably with some community consultation look at what the potential might be,” Cunningham says. “We haven’t put too much energy into it until we know it won’t be used as an arena.”
The conversation is three years away at least — even if the referendum passes — the Civic Arena would be needed until the new ice sheet is built around the fall of 2018. But, ideas have already been thrown around, Cunningham says, like using it for a permanent indoor market or gymnastics centre.
The city’s Official Community Plan calls for the property to eventually be used as park space once the rink is relocated, but that’s not set in stone either.
“I don’t disagree we should always make every effort to conserve heritage buildings,” Cunningham says. “It’s been a part of our community for a long time.”
Recreation services manager Doug Ross says one possibility is using the building as a field house — a large, open space of multi-court surfaces for sports like indoor volleyball and pickle ball. Whatever it’s possible functions, Ross says, the old building would likely need extensive renovation work.
“The possibilities are endless, but they all come with price tags,” Ross says.
Civic Arena has already served the community for 77 years, and Ross is counting on it to hold on for a little longer.
“People of the day had the foresight to build a facility like that, that’s what we’re hoping for again this year, that people in the community will have the foresight to build this twin sheet, and that it will give us many years of service moving forward.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.