By Greg Price
Taber Recreation board is inviting members of the major arena user groups for their input into the future plans of the small ice at the Taber Arena.
MPE Engineering was once again on hand at the Taber Recreation Board meeting on Sept. 7 to discuss various issues arising from the small ice whose life span has been estimated five to 10 years top in how its fallen into disrepair.
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, with September’s meeting having the options narrowed down to three: direct replacement, expansion of the current building to the north to allow for a regulation-sized ice surface and a new separate rink connected by a corridor.
The small ice arena is approximately 40 years old. Goertzen noted various aspects of the rink are in visibly poor condition which present operational/safety issues.
Those operational and safety issues were brought to the recreation board’s attention again at the September meeting through a small ice consultant investigation with various photograph illustrations. The pictures showed an access ramp that was too steep to serve as a fire aggress according to current building codes. a gate at the eat end, that when opened, blocks access to the fire exit from the spectator stands, an insufficient current fire alarms system, and current dasher boards which are not constructed to current guidelines for full-contact hockey. The physical condition of the existing dasher boards are in poor condition, with cracking visible in the board throughout, and gaps in the boards near the corners and gates according to the MPE report.
The corners of the boards have too small of a radius for the Zamboni machine to flood along the boards, resulting in patches in the corner that must be flooded by hand.
The concrete slab for the ice surface is cracked in several places and is not level, requiring the difference to be made up with thicker ice.
There are also many locations where the surface of the slab has been worn down and the rebar and slab cooling piping are exposed. The slab is approximately 40 year sold and is near its expected end-of-life cycle for replacement.
Direct replacement consists of replacing the existing components of the small ice arena within the existing building envelope. The option would primarily address the safety and building code shortcomings, as well as improving some operational issues and replace damaged equipment.
“This is the simplest solution which requires the least amount of design because the systems are already there and it has the lowest capital costs of all the options,” said Goertzen to recreation board members at its Sept. 7 meeting.
The direct replacement option has an estimated cost of $1.51 million with the biggest line items being replacement of concrete slab ($300,000), replacement of dasher boards ($160,000), heating and ventilation upgrades ($150,000) and demolition of the existing boards and slab ($140,000).
“The cons of this option are the rink will not be regulation,” said Goertzen. “If you are wanting to do a series of tournament games, you will still only be able to use the one ice surface. When we are doing the work, you will probably have to lose the operation of the rink for part of your season. It also has the least amount of spectator viewing, there’s not much we can do about the seating.”
The second option is expanding the current building to the north to allow for a regulation-sized rink. The roof structure would need to be redesigned for the entire space as the existing roof structure is currently supported from the north wall, which would need to be removed for expansion.
Cost of the expansion is estimated at $5.04 million, with the new building construction and ice rink construction making up $3.36 million.
Aline Holmen, director of recreation noted there were a a gas line that runs along the edge of the arena which may up the cost of the option working around the utilities in the parking lot.
“You would have larger spectator stands which would run along the length of the ice,” said Goertzen, adding items such as the replacement of the concrete slab for the ice surface, extension of brine headers for slab cooling, installation of new dasher boards and protective netting, new scoreboard and sound system, and updated existing heating, ventilation, lighting and electrical systems. “You get a full-sized ice surface and it’s lower cost than a whole new building, as we are re-using some building area here.”
Cons would be losing a large portion of the available parking to the north and there would be loss of usage of the small ice during construction which would likely be one full hockey season. There is also the increased cost, which is approximately $3.5 million more.
The third option would be a new separate building for a new regulation-sized rink which would be north of the existing small ice arena. The building would be connected to the existing building to allow for re-use of the existing dressing rooms and washrooms facilities in the Taber Arena.
The existing ice plant would be able to maintain another full-sized rink, but it would not have the capacity to start up both rinks simultaneously.
There would be construction of fire separation between the new and existing building. With the construction of the new building, there would be modifications of the existing Taber Arena to allow connection along with inclusion of a low-E ceiling. There would be an extension of brine distribution piping, new brine headers and installation of a larger brine pump for the cooling system.
Cost of the option is estimated at $6.96 million.
All the options which MPE presented are a 40-year investment into the facility. Population trends have shown Taber and surrounding communities at approximately 9,500 and has increased four per cent in the last five years. If population growth patterns remain constant, it would mark Taber at an estimated population of 13,000 in 40 years.
“There is a concern you can invest $1.5 million in the small ice when you’ll need a large ice down the road. It is important to consider the demographics in this decision, you have to know your utilization, so demographics matter a lot,” said Goertzen. “Are your ice programs being impacted more or less over time? Are your programs diminishing over time as you are shifting to an older population?”
Whatever recommendation the recreation board makes to town council, Goertzen urged that there must be some urgency in the decision. The current problems of the small ice arena are not going away and it takes time to plan construction properly.
“Either you repair it, or you build a new ice rink to replace it. We expect it to fail within 10 years. Now that may be a failure you can repair or it may be to a point that you have to do so many repairs that it makes it cost prohibitive to repair it,” said Goertzen, adding 10 years is likely the best-case scenario, where failures could occur much earlier. “You need to be doing something long term with that ice. We recommend that you make a decision with which option you want to proceed with within the next couple of years. You can’t design a new building overnight, you probably need a year or two to come up with a design and you need to think of where you’ll be getting your money from. We gave you some time frames to make your decisions on and that based on the condition of the slab (on the small ice).”
MPE is recommending the option of a new separate arena which allows for no down time of current programming with the small ice still being able to be used.
“It seems to be it’s all going to come down to the money,” said Joel Mills, recreation board member.
“Comparing to Brooks, you actually don’t need another ice surface for 40 years with our current population growth. Forty years is a long time. Is a new ice surface warranted for the Town of Taber? I can argue yes and no,” added Randy Sparks, councillor for the Town of Taber and recreation board member. “Registration in all forms of athletics is declining throughout the country. Luckily, Taber Minor Hockey has individuals that come and play here form other communities. This is a big investment, and unless there are some grants available, it will be coming from the taxpayers form the Town of Taber for something like this. Not everyone believes we need more recreation in the Town of Taber, other think we need more arts and things like that. This is a big ask. Being a hockey and athletics guy, I understand this, but the Town of Taber demographics are aging, they are not getting younger and I don’t see that changing in the near future. This recreation board has a tough task at hand of what of what we’d like to recommend to council. There is a lot on the plate for the Town of Taber that has a huge price tag attached to it and where the money is going to come from I have no idea.”
Taber recreation board members passed a motion unanimously to go in closed session (in camera) after the MPE delegation made their report.
Coming out of closed session, a motion was passed according to Aline Holmen, director of recreation to accept the MPE report for information.
Another motion was passed to invite users groups of both the large and small ice to provide input on the small ice surface at the Taber Recreation Board’s meeting on Oct. 5 (clock bookers/minor hockey/ Golden Suns/commercial league/figure skating).
“They don’t want to go any further without getting feedback to see if these people even want one (another full-sized ice surface), said Holmen in an interview with The Times on Friday in an inquiry if there were any motions passed after the closed session.