The city announced this week that it had been forced to shutter Memorial Arena due to safety risks related to its roof and support beams.
Because the facility produces ice for Cranbrook’s Kinsmen Arena, that facility will be closed for ice sports as well.
“It was a pretty big shock for us, the situation around the arenas, something we had not expected. Our season had basically just begun, and we had heard no whispers of that at all,” Cranbrook Minor Hockey vice-president Aaron Byng-Hall told Global News.
The closures will affect about 450 youth in the Cranbook hockey program, in addition to figure skaters and general public skates.
The association is currently trying to source ice time in neighbouring communities, and working with the city on other solutions, he said.
“There’s a lot of curiosity about how the season is going to occur — of course disappointment, trepidation, worry that the season might be cancelled,” he said.
“We are trying to assure them the best we can we are going to do everything we can to have a successful season.”
Acting Cranbrook mayor Mike Peabody said the city only learned of the problems with the arena on Monday, when council received an engineering report showing serious problems with the wooden support beams holding up the roof.
“The structural engineer that did the report, he advocated for immediate closure of the facility,” he said.
“Unfortunately there was no other decision that could have been made here, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult to hear the news, especially as we’re just getting started with the hockey season.”
Peabody said the arena had a full roof replacement in 1972, and another round of repairs were completed in 2011 to reinforce the structural beams.
While those beams still appear solid from the exterior, he said, the engineering report found they were rotting from the inside out, putting the roof’s stability at risk.
“Honestly I am just thankful it was discovered before we had a situation happen,” he said.
In the interim, the city is working with the hockey association to locate other ice surfaces.
Byng-Hall said the city-owned Western Financial Arena has also extended its hours to allow more early and late ice time, and the Junior A Cranbrook Bucks have also generously given up some of their ice time at the facility for youth.
As for next steps, Peabody said it is likely the Memorial Arena will need a complete roof replacement.
The cost and timeline on that project remain unclear, he said, adding that both will likely be affected by the labour shortage plaguing B.C.’s construction industry.
“Whether or not we can afford it? The easy answer is yes, but unfortunately it’s going to take most likely some borrowing, and unfortunately paying off debt comes on the backs of the local taxpayers,” he said.
“Obviously we are going to make this a priority to tackle, and we are going to do all we can to make sure this facility is up and running as soon as possible.”