Axe falls for Pioneer Arena
City council, at its regular meeting Monday night, voted unanimously to demolish the Pioneer Arena when the RDCK (Regional District of Central Kootenay) terminates its current lease agreement.
A study contracted in June of last year found that, “…the majority of building components are currently beyond their expected lifespan, and that the facility as a whole is largely exhausted.” Councillor Kirk Duff, who also serves on the recreation commission, said more than one study has indicated the stand-alone facility, built in 1956, is no longer a viable element of city infrastructure.
“There have been several reports done over the years, including one in 1982 that said repairs to bring it to National Building Code Standards would cost over $1 million,” Duff said, adding that number would be exponentially higher today, more than a decade after the study was conducted. Duff said he appreciates the emotional attachment many locals feel regarding the Pioneer Arena, which was built through donations and volunteer labour, but said the sentimental value is superceded by the needs of a growing and evolving community. He said a second sheet of ice at the Complex site, which is part of the current proposed expansion project, would eliminate redundancy for recreation staff, be more convenient for patrons, and ultimately cost taxpayers less than would a renovation of the Pioneer Arena. Councillor Russ Hearne concurred, adding the building has little pragmatic value once the ice sheet is removed. “To solve the structural problems (that would make it useable for other community groups) would cost millions and millions and millions of dollars,” he said, explaining large sections of the foundation have deteriorated, the emergency exits and signage are inadequate, the water systems are corroding …the list goes on (for a comprehensive run-down, go to the city website under ‘city council meetings’ and see page 32 of the Sept. 20 meeting agenda). City director of development services Phil Markin summarized the situation as follows, “To keep the Pioneer Arena open and safe after the RDCK has finished with it would require enormous resources without any long term benefit to the city.” The recreation commission’s alternate plan will be presented to Castlegar residents Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. at the Complex, and residents are encouraged to come and ask questions regarding the proposed $25-million expansion before voting in the Nov. 6 referendum on the subject.