The Eastern Ontario town of Prescott is losing its only skating rink.
After fifty years, the aging Leo Boivin Community Centre has developed a suspected ammonia leaks that the city says it cannot fix.
“One of my earliest childhood memories was learning to skate in this area,” said Mayor Todd. “You talk about rinks being the heart of a community and this is one of the hearts of Prescott and it ripped my heart out last night to have to make this decision.”
Todd says the rink was built using an “active ammonia” system that pumps ammonia in the floor and in the facility to keep the ice from melting. That system failed a so-called “pressure” test this week highlighting a leak in the arena floor.
The testing was conducted following the tragic ammonia leak in Fernie, British Columbia earlier this year that killed three people.
“With an older facility there are more concerns with that safety,” he said. “This is an example of the infrastructure crisis facing Ontario municipalities. All of our towns and cities have buildings that date back to the centennial and beyond.”
The city has plans to build a new, state-of-the-art facility for roughly $8 to 10 million sometime in the next 24 to 30 months. The mayor says it can build the rink on its own, but requires provincial and or federal funding to make sure the project goes ahead without a hitch.
“We need assistance from the provincial government on infrastructure needs to make sure we can keep our arenas going,” Mayor Todd said.”
The sudden closure has local hockey associations and the Prescott Figure Skating Club scrambling. The closest rinks in Spencerville and Cardinal, both a 20 minute drive, are largely booked up for the season.
“It’s a big part of the community,” said local coach Justin Kirkby. “We have a lot of hockey players here. We are one of the biggest associations.”
Kirkby says this decision may make it more difficult for some local athletes to stay active.
“I just got my schedule yesterday about where condition camps and tryouts will be and you are trying to work that around work and now all of that‘s changed,” he said. “For the kids, the kids are impacted because they will have less ice time overall.”
The same goes for the Prescott Figure Skating Club. It’s roughly 70 members now have nowhere to lace up come September.
“It’s so unfortunate to see this now,” said the club’s President Sandra Graham-Kirkby. “If we had only known that was the last ice show or the last time ice time.”
Graham-Kirkby says the skating club is working to secure other ice time for its members.