Arena fire may force Fort Smith to build outdoor rinks
Arena may be closed all next season
The Town of Fort Smith is looking at ways to provide ice surfaces for community sports next winter while the arena is closed.
A fire broke out at the Fort Smith Centennial Arena in the early morning of May 13, and burned for hours before being discovered by employees. The arena will likely not be usable for the 2013-2014 ice season.
The town council voted unanimously Tuesday night to form a committee to create an ice strategy for this winter.
"If there's no arena we'd look at outdoor ice surfaces," said Mayor Brad Brake.
"We have several places in town where we could actually create boards, create an ice surface. Of course there won’t be glass or anything like that. If you talk to people who talk about Fort Smith back in the day, they used to have lots of outdoor ice surfaces."
Brake said the arena is widely used, and he hopes to hear from everyone.
The committee will have representatives from the six main arena user groups: four hockey associations and the speed skating and figure skating clubs.
Blaine Walterhouse, an organizer with men's rec hockey, said they hope to be skating come fall.
"That's what most of the guys do here is play hockey three to four times a week, so it will be a big blow if we don't have hockey next season. But at the same time, we don't know if that decision is going to be made or not yet."
Shari Olsen, who coaches the Learn to Skate program, said the timing couldn't be worse.
"It's a terrible year for us not to have any ice for kids that want to try to participate in the Arctic Winter Games," she said.
"If you can't get your kid on the ice so that they can be competitive with other kids to try out, that's going to make it tough."
The cause has of the fire has not yet been determined, but the mayor said it was likely electrical.