British Columbia

Hazelton's beloved hockey arena faces sudden closure

The plight of Hazelton, B.C.'s only ice arena will be raised in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, after it was deemed too dangerous to keep open and suddenly evacuated.

As residents look forward to a new rec centre, they find ways to honour their old arena

Hockey players in Hazelton, B.C. have been left without a safe hockey rink, after the local ice arena was deemed too dangerous.

The plight of Hazelton, B.C.'s only ice arena will be raised in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, after the aging building was deemed too dangerous to keep open and suddenly evacuated.

Residents had known for a while that the foundation of the 44-year-old, volunteer-built Ken Trombley Memorial Arena was shifting and had already begun raising funds for a new recreation centre.

But they hadn't expected an evacuation to happen in the middle of a hockey practice last month.

"We were kind of hoping that we'd be able to keep the old girl going for another few years, but in the process of planning for the development of the new arena, we engaged an engineer to take a look at the old one to see if it could be repurposed," said Peter Newbery, organizer of the group Heart of the Hazeltons

"And so [it was during] a hockey practice when the engineer determined that the dangers were that serious, that we should shut the building down and that's what happened — much to the great consternation to the kids involved, the parents involved, and the children who were to have their concluding figure skating carnival the next day."

At a cost of $10 million, Hazelton's new recreation centre will have a hockey rink, gym, climbing wall and other features. (Heart of the Hazeltons)

Newbery told Daybreak North the local community has already raised $4.5 million for a new recreational centre that would not only have a hockey rink, but also a gym, climbing wall and other features.

The whole project would cost roughly $10 million, and the community is applying for government funding as well.

New Democrat MLA Doug Donaldson is expected to speak up for the project during Question Period at the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday.

Honouring the old

As for the old arena, Newbery says generations of kids learned to play hockey and skate there. It was also the only place around for people to gather during winter, so the community wants to find a way to honour it.

"Sometimes it tended to be colder on the inside than outside when we were playing hockey, and there were not many amenities to the building," Newbery said.

"But it was a building that I think, generally speaking, the community was really proud of simply because it represented the volunteerism and the can-do spirit of this community."

Newbery says once the old building's frame is torn down, the community might try to put a bubble over the ice rink to keep it going for a few years, or operate it as an open air arena.

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Hazelton residents say goodbye to beloved arena

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