Community association disputes safety concerns forcing closure of Chestermere Recreation Centre

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Chestermere Recreation Centre closing over safety concerns
WATCH: Rocky View County is closing the Chestermere Rec Centre over concerns the roof may collapse under significant snowfall. Adam MacVicar reports. – Sep 25, 2019

Snow in the forecast has forced the closure of the Chestermere Regional Recreation Centre due to concern a heavy snowfall could lead to the partial collapse of the building’s roof.

Rocky View County, which owns the building, said officials made the decision to close the building after a structural assessment revealed a portion of the facility’s roof was at risk of failure if it was faced with a heavy snow load.

The building will be closed until further notice as of 5 p.m. on Friday.

“Some structural issues in the facility popped up as being major structural issues,” Rocky View County reeve Greg Boehlke told Global News. “Public safety was a major concern so council made a very difficult decision in closing the building.”

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It’s unclear how long building will be closed, but Rocky View County said it is planning to take a closer look to determine what needs to be done to repair the roof over the red rink.

“We’ll get further engineering done and an analysis of the extent of the damage — what it’ll take to fix it,” Boehlke said. “Can we use one rink and close the other one down? These are all questions we need to know the answers to.”

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Community association report draws different conclusion

The closure isn’t sitting well with members of the Chestermere Regional Community Association, the organization which runs the building.

Members of the CRCA believe there is no risk to public safety, after an engineering report they commissioned earlier this summer deemed the structure safe.

“It was a shock to us, to be quite frank, we didn’t know this was coming,” CRCA board member Derek From said. “The narrative they’re spinning is incorrect.”

Global News has obtained a letter sent to the Chestermere Recreation Centre by Stantec, the engineering firm commissioned by the CRCA to do their own report, which the association says draws a different conclusion than the county’s.

“In Stantec’s professional opinion, the life safety of the users of the facility is not of immediate concern, and that closure of the facility is not necessary in the immediate future, unless there are significant changes to the forecast,” Stantec associate Dave Crawford wrote in the letter.  “While our analysis indicates that the snow loading prescribed in the current version of the National Building Code of Canada and the Alberta Building Code would cause an overstress condition in the roof; this amount of snow loading would not necessarily cause collapse of the structure.”

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From said the CRCA is scrambling to figure out a solution to the closure, which will impact the more than 200 programs offered at the facility, as well as the more than 700 hockey players currently trying out for teams on the rinks.

According to the facility’s website, it hosted 150,000 visitors last year on the two hockey rinks, gymnasium, three curling sheets, fitness facility, senior’s centre and lounge.

The closure is also expected to impact the Chestermere Community Play School, which has been operating out of the facility for 36 years. Officials on the play school’s board told Global News they are now searching for a temporary space.

“We are absolutely rocked by this news,” Debbie Manovich said. “We have 80 families that are impacted by this and to share this news with them is heartbreaking.”

But the county insists it doesn’t want to take any chances when it comes to public safety, and is hoping the closure is only short-term.

According to the county, the structural analysis of the recreation centre and following safety inspection were prompted by a number of roof collapses and issues at similar facilities in Calgary.

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The roof of Calgary’s Fairview Arena collapsed in February 2018 and while nobody was hurt, it did prompt the city to inspect all of city arenas.

The Jack Setters Arena re-opened earlier this month after being last December following concerns the roof could collapse due to snow accumulation.

“Better to be safe than sorry,” Boehlke said. “I would have a hard time sleeping if we hadn’t made a major move and some catastrophe happened.”

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