November 9, 2018 7:51 pm
Updated: November 9, 2018 8:10 pm

Vernon Civic Arena being demolished; 80 years of sports history comes to an end

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Demolition on Vernon’s Civic Arena is well underway.

The building is now just a shell of its former self.

Outside sit piles of broken concrete and rebar.

Pipes and plumbing are visible through a gaping hole in the building, and a lone gate from the boards leans up against an outside wall.

But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the day, Vernon Civic was once the jewel of arenas.

“It’s dated January 6th 1938,” said Barb Bell, archivist at the Vernon Museum and Archives.

Just down the street from the arena at the Vernon Museum and Archives, Bell has pulled the front page of the Vernon News from the day the Civic Arena was first opened.

“It says that this was the only artificial ice surface between Vancouver and the Kootenays at the time, so it was a big deal,” said Bell.

Vernon Civic Arena during its heyday.

Vernon Museum and Archives

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And it continued to be a big deal for Vernon for a long time, playing host to a lifetime worth of sports and community history for the North Okanagan city.

“A lot of history. You can just imagine the number of kids that have practiced there, played games there, the heroes that were made, the losses that were had, the victories,” said Nick Nilsen from the City of Vernon.

But with the opening of a second sheet of ice at Kal Tire Place, Vernon Civic Arena became unviable and the decision was made to tear it down.

Eighty years’ worth of sports memorabilia has been removed from the building. The boards and clocks will be repurposed and right now crews are working diligently to remove the rafters.

“The rafters themselves are quite magnificent,” said Nilsen. “They are really a work of art in themselves, and of all the items in there that people have sort of identified with, it’s not the boards, of course, but it’s things like that. You know, the real architectural stuff that you just don’t see anymore.”

“We’re going to lower the roof structure down slowly,” said project manager Benny Nugent.

The city has instructed the contractor doing the decommissioning to take great pains in removing the storied rafters.

“They’re very unique, they’re well aged and they’ve got lots of history to them, of course. And once they come down, they can be refurbished,” said Nugent

As for the site itself, there are no current plans for it, though there is some talk of perhaps a park or a green space. However, the City of Vernon is planning on doing something with the salvaged rafters.

“Our hope is that we can find some good useful purpose for the rafters themselves,” said Nilsen.

If the city decides that a park or a green space is a good use of the site, one idea being tossed around is a giant gazebo made from the old arena’s timber trusses.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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