Town of Hay River officials are exploring various renovation options for the Don Stewart Recreation Centre, which is on its last legs.
The issue was discussed at length during a Hay River council meeting on March 25.
Lyle Hannan, the town’s director of recreation and community services, proposed a few options for the 45-year-old building, which is suffering from roof leaks and a faulty refrigeration system, among other issues.
“The roof needs to be replaced and we’ve had a number of brine leaks under the ice over the last few years,” Hannan said.
A brine solution cools the rink ice by circulating through a network of ancient pipes embedded in the concrete slab.
“The piping is all original. You touch it and it disintegrates,” Hannan noted. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to get to the leaks, but if it were to happen in the middle of the ice, we’d have to replace the whole thing.”
Refrigeration issues also damaged the ice surface on the curling side earlier this year.
“Every season is a roll of the dice,” Hannan said in regard to the recreation centre’s condition.
The building is starting to show the effects of age, as it cannot keep up with the increased usage it gets every year.
The town took the issue more seriously starting in 2007, when a technical review of the building was carried out.
A building feasibility study was also done and weighed the options of renovations versus building an entirely new recreation centre.
In 2010, the town brought in some consultants to evaluate the building and public meetings were held.
The options proposed were to renovate the existing building, make the ice surface bigger, expand the recreation centre and ice surface, or build completely off site.
The consensus was that renovations had to take place on the existing recreation centre, and that building a new one would cost far too much.
“We’re at the point where something has to get done,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy. “The scope of what has to get done is still being worked on. Renovations will give us another 50 years.”
Hannan said the cost would range from $15-$20 million, depending on which options the town decides to go with.
Unfortunately, the Town of Hay River simply does not have that kind of money to spend right now.
Cassidy said the issue would have to go to plebiscite if that amount of money has to be borrowed.
Before reaching that point, a number of unanswered questions have to be addressed, such as whether the town should adopt a phased approach to the renovations or carrying them out all at once.
“If we go to plebiscite right away, we don’t have enough information for the public right now,” Cassidy said. “We want to make sure we understand all the costs and that we have a plan moving forward.”
The town doesn’t want to have to cancel an entire season of figure skating, ice hockey, curling and speed skating, he added.
The dressing rooms, the boards and windows on the ice rink, and the fire suppression system are all below standard, according to Hannan, who noted a substantial investment has to be made if Hay River is going to get more usage out of the building.
For the time being, the town is in the process of hiring an architectural firm to answer a few more questions before heading down a committed path.
“We’re doing our homework so that we can let the community and council make good decisions about this,” said Hannan.
— Myles Dolphin