Ice rink tent nixed

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Pennie Pokiak, president of Hay River Minor Hockey, stands in the outdoor skating rink in 553.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Pennie Pokiak, president of Hay River Minor Hockey, stands in the outdoor skating rink in 553.

There will be no covered ice surface in Hay River this coming winter.

That’s because plans have fallen through to put a natural-ice rink inside a large tent owned by Aurora Ford.

Fire Chief Ross Potter said the tent doesn’t meet code to be used for assembly occupancy.

“It’s just the fact that structurally it’s not sound enough to put people inside of it is enough reason for it to be refused,” he said. “We won’t put people in jeopardy.”

The tent in the industrial area is designed for the storage of items, Potter said. “It’s not designed for the occupancy of gatherings.”

The town’s arena – and most of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre – was recently demolished and will be rebuilt in a project that is expected to be completed late next year.

There is no way to upgrade the tent without incurring great expense, said Potter. “The whole superstructure would’ve had to have been reinforced and doubled up.”

The Town of Hay River has been advised by engineers that such work isn’t economically feasible.

The tent consists of an internal metal skeleton structure covered by a vinyl skin.

Mayor Brad Mapes also said there’s not going to be a covered ice surface in the community this coming winter.

“There’s no other option in our town right now for a covered one, so it’s going to cause some inconvenience there,” he said.

Mapes said the latest development is disappointing.

The town’s focus will now turn to outdoor rinks.

Mapes said the outdoor rinks are usually not ready for use until mid-December.

On Oct. 3, town administration reported to the Public Works Committee that the goal is to provide three outdoor ice surfaces.

“We will upgrade and improve the structure at the 553 location over the course of the next month,” stated the report prepared by Gloria Murdock-Smith, the town’s senior administrative officer. “We plan to put in more lighting, a heated and improved gate (dressing) room for 553 and to increase the maintenance of the surface. The second rink will be in the Old Town and the third behind the fire hall.”

The report said the next step in the coming weeks will be to put out a call to the recreational community to assist the town in creating a schedule for use of the outdoor rinks.

In comments to The Hub on Sept. 30, Mapes said the idea is that the outdoor ice surfaces will be cleared by a Zamboni three times a day.

The mayor also suggested there may be some opportunities to create, along with the outdoor rinks, other areas where the town could put ice surfaces with snowbanks so residents can skate as they please.

“Maybe it’s a possibility of getting the Polar Pond areas up a little bit sooner and maybe utilizing that area too as an option,” he said. “That’s something that the committee has got to discuss and come up with a game plan.”

Plus, he said there may be ways to utilize the arenas in Fort Resolution and Fort Smith.

Pennie Pokiak, president of Hay River Minor Hockey, is disappointed there will be no covered ice surface this winter.

“Obviously, it’s totally deflating,” she said. “Sure, we’re still going to have use of outdoor rinks, but that rink inside an enclosure we were really looking forward to that because I think it would’ve gotten more use by more participants rather than just having you out in the elements.”

Pokiak now thinks there will be a lot of travelling to arenas in Fort Resolution, Fort Providence, Fort Smith and High Level, Alta.

She said the Aurora Ford tent wouldn’t have been the perfect solution but would have been a lot better than being outside and exposed to the elements.

Pokiak added Hay River Minor Hockey has also already ordered equipment for floor hockey.

“We’re going to have the kids at least in the gym playing floor hockey and that will start our season,” she said.
Pokiak said minor hockey used the outdoor rink in 553 during last year’s strike by the town’s unionized workers.

Mapes expressed appreciation to Aurora Ford for offering the use of its tent.

“They stepped up to the plate and we just weren’t able to do it,” he said. “We’ve got to go with the flow.”

Lee Cawson, the vice-president of the Aurora Group, said Aurora Ford is very disappointed the tent could not be used.

“It was a great way for us to be able to provide something to the community,” he said.

Cawson said Aurora Ford stepped up to help out mostly for minor hockey so children could keep playing.

“It’s hard for kids that are trying to get into the sport and play to not have a facility for a whole winter,” he said.

Now that the tent will not house an ice surface, it will continue with its usual role of storing boats.