Developmentally disabled artists given 'very narrow window' to leave before arena roof collapsed

Developmentally disabled artists got out of the Fairview Arena with only about an hour to spare before part of the roof collapsed Tuesday afternoon, and the executive director is wondering what happened.

Jung-Suk Ryu says he's upset group wasn't alerted to 'severity of the situation'

Jung-Suk Ryu of the Indefinite Arts Centre says the group, which supports artists with developmental disabilities, was given very little time to evacuate before the roof of the Fairview Arena collapsed on Tuesday afternoon. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Developmentally disabled artists got out of the Fairview Arena with only about an hour to spare before part of the roof collapsed Tuesday afternoon, and the executive director is wondering what happened.

"I am a bit upset that we weren't also given some of the same kind of information about the severity of the situation," Jung-Suk Ryu of Indefinite Arts Centre told CBC News on Wednesday.

"We do know now that the arena was evacuated and thankfully nobody was hurt, but it was a very narrow window of time for us, for us to get out before the actual roof collapsed."

Ryu says that while they learned Monday there were structural concerns, he says the seriousness of it was not clearly communicated and the group left the arena by 3:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported after the roof collapsed at Fairview Arena in southeast Calgary on Tuesday — one day after it was deemed structurally unsafe by city engineers and the Calgary Fire Department. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Part of the arena's roof collapsed at 4:30 p.m.

That said, Ryu says the community has been incredibly generous at offering Indefinite Arts alternate spaces.

"We are getting incredible feedback from the community of folks opening up their spaces so we can continue our programming. We are just totally overwhelmed with the support we are getting."

The city's recreation manager says, however, the city responded appropriately.

"The process and protocols that we have in place met the exact safety needs that we had on that situation," Greg Steinraths told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

Calgary recreation manager says Fairview Arena evacuation was appropriate before collapse 9:48

"It was a true opportunity where we were able to make it a safe place, and that nobody was in the venue at that time."

Steinraths says Fairview Arena was last assessed in 2015 and there were no apparent issues at that time. He says facilities like the arena are assessed every five years, which is industry standard.

Steinraths would not commit to a timeline for reopening or whether or not the facility would ever reopen.

"It's too early to speculate, we don't know what the cause it," he said.

Association committed to rebuild

The Southern Alberta Women's Hockey Association — which operates the city-owned arena — released a statement on Wednesday, saying the collapsed roof will not break them "but merely set us back."

"Our volunteer board has been working diligently over the last few days to secure other ice times throughout the city to not only re-schedule the remaining games in the regular season but our playoff games as well," said association vice-president Alyshia Pretulac in an emailed statement.

"SAWHA will focus our efforts over the next few months to determining a strategy for our organization and member base including fundraising efforts. SAWHA has been around since 1977 and will continue for many generations to come."

Thanks to the assistance of other arenas, the association says it's managed to reschedule 60 games for its 53 teams so far.

The group has also created a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $5 million to rebuild the arena. 

Other arena roofs to be examined

While there were no injuries, the collapse of the southeast Calgary arena has prompted the city to test other arenas of a similar age, says the area councillor.

"Of course we are concerned about the roofs of all the other arenas," Gian-Carlo Carra told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

"There is going to be a serious look at where everything else is."

Emergency crews were called to the Fairview Arena in the 8000 block of Fairmount Drive S.E. just after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The facility director told CBC News that structural problems were first detected Monday.

And Carra says that was a stroke of luck.

"Everyone was very, very relieved to learn that no one was in the building. We are very lucky that there was an audible crack heard, that there was a visible crack in the truss. Imagine if we didn't know?" he said.

The arena was built in 1972.

We speak with the councillor of Ward 9 about the roof collapse at Fairview Arena. 7:05


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and CBC's Dave Dormer and Colleen Underwood