The only ice arena in the Hazeltons has been closed indefinitely after a safety issue with the roof brought the skating season to an abrupt end last week.
The 44-year-old Ken Trombley Memorial Arena was evacuated suddenly at about 4 p.m. last Thursday immediately after a structural engineer inspected the building and deemed it unsafe.
The engineer had found a beam that was at risk of falling on the ice.
The Village of Hazelton, which is the municipality responsible for the building’s safety, decided to close the
“The structural engineer’s concerns were such that he recommended the immediate closure of the building,” said
chief administrative officer Tanalee Hesse.
“The Skeena Ice Arena Association (operators of the building) and the Village of Hazelton as the municipal authority responsible for the building safety were informed.
“In the interest of public safety I chose to take the recommendation of the engineer and close the building immediately.”
Skaters with the Hazelton Minor Hockey Association had just started their last practice for the season when the evacuation took place.
Association president Ryneld Starr said it was disappointing for the team.
“It was really disappointing for them because it was the last day of hockey practice to be told to get off the ice is really tough,” he said.
“The [arena] worker came and told us to get off the ice and then there was quite a bit of confusion because we didn’t quite understand what was going on.”
He said it was lucky the closure happened at the end of the season but he was concerned the building might still be closed next winter.
“We’re quite worried about what’s going to happen for next year just in case this can’t be fixed in time for next year,” he said.
“Then we’ll be looking at a season with no minor hockey here in the Hazeltons.
“That would be really, really devastating.”
The Hazelton Skating Club had to cancel its Spring Show, an end of year showcase which would have been attended by about 50 young skaters.
Coach Stacey Brown said club members had been practicing their routines for about a month.
She said the club was in shock after the sudden closure.
“We knew there was going to come a time when we were going to need a new arena but to have it so suddenly snatched is just really hard on a lot of the kids,” she said.
“As a coach I’ve put a tonne of energy in over the past six years building the club up again and the work from parents of skaters has been incredible.”
With the arena closed the club moved its celebration outside, presenting end-of-season certificates and awards at a barbecue in the arena parking lot on Friday.
She said logistically it would not be possible to move the Spring Show to Smithers but the club would consider transporting skaters there next season.
“It would be very sad to not continue in Hazelton at this time but if we have to we’ll rent some ice in Smithers and take our kids over there so they can skate there and keep some of the momentum going for the skating so we can get our seat back under us and get a program going,” she said.
“It serves a huge need in our community to keep kids going and to keep kids physically active.”
Town of Smithers director of recreation, parks and culture Andrew Hillaby said ice time at both Smithers arenas was limited but suggested clubs and associations could work together to help accommodate Hazelton.
Although last week’s closure was abrupt, it was not without warning.
A 2007 Structural Condition Report recommended that the ailing facility, built in 1971, should be decommissioned within three to five years.
With that in mind, the Skeena Ice Arena Association has been campaigning for funding to build a new arena and recreation centre for the cluster of communities known as the Hazeltons.
President Vivienne Spooner said the association had called an emergency meeting and would be seeking advice from engineers about how to proceed.
With the arena closed, she hoped it would help increase pressure to hasten the construction of a new arena.
“We won’t know any more until we actually have meetings with those appropriate people,” she said.
“It’s a very, very sad thing but [I hope] that our new arena comes along faster than what it has originally been thought of doing.”
Village of Hazelton Mayor Alice Maitland was saddened by the arena closure but said the village would work with the association to help find an interim solution.
“It will be a huge loss to our community and we are hoping that we can mitigate that until we get the new ice arena,” said Maitland.