Jack Setters Arena closed after report finds heavy snow puts roof at risk of collapse

An arena in southeast Calgary has been temporary closed due to safety concerns following two nights of heavy snowfall.

15 cm of snow could make the building unsafe, report found

A note posted on the Jack Setters Arena door Sunday warns that the building has been closed due to a safety issue. (Helen Pike/CBC)

An arena in southeast Calgary has been temporary closed due to safety concerns following a heavy snowfall.

The Millican Ogden Community Association announced Sunday morning that the Jack Setters Arena, located at 2020 69th Avenue S.E., has been ordered temporarily closed by the city.

A free skate planned for the same day was cancelled.

Rick Smith, the community association's president, said the building — which is owned by the city — was deemed safe in an initial review done by the city following the collapse of the Fairview Arena's roof earlier this year.

But findings from a more intensive review undertaken this summer came back Friday, and led to locks being put on the 45-year-old building's doors by midnight Saturday.

The report found 15 centimetres of snow accumulation on the building's roof would be unsafe for the roof trusses. It says they are overstressed and the joints could fail.

Seven centimetres of snow fell on Saturday, according to Environment Canada.

"While there is no imminent danger of collapse unless a large snow load exists, the city's safety codes officer felt it necessary to act with an abundance of caution to protect citizen safety," read a statement posted to the building's door.

Smith said he got a call about 8 p.m. Friday that he needed to meet with city engineering staff at 10 a.m. the next morning.

"I didn't anticipate the news we were going to be getting," he said.

Ice shortage

The arena was fully booked for the season, between minor hockey, adult hockey and figure skating.

"There was some frenzy last night as they tried to give some notice to those users who were going to be there today, because today being Sunday was a full day from 6 a.m. to midnight," he said.

"It's going to be an enormous task … and there's already a shortage of ice in the city. So this is pretty devastating, I think."

Smith said he'll be looking for "firm direction" from the city on how staff will be able to access the building, and what can be done with the ice plant.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said dealing with recreational facility issues is almost old hat at this point.

Both the Fairview Arena and Jack Setters are in Carra's ward. When he was first elected, he also dealt with the collapse of the Calgary Soccer Centre's dome.

"We don't want to deal with a repeat of that," Carra said. "This is an abundance of caution, an exercise of caution for sure."

Shoring up, monitoring

Carra said the community association and city have been in "tense" negotiations over the responsibility for the structure of the old building, but both parties are working very closely together to resolve the issue.

Options that would allow the arena to reopen — including shoring up and strict monitoring — will be discussed at meetings in the coming days between city officials, the community association and engineers. 

There's no timeline yet for when the arena could reopen, and the community association is working with the city to find alternative facilities for those impacted by the closure.

"Our primary concern is public safety and with the information gathered we are taking this action in abundance of caution to protect those who work and play here," said Marco Civitarese, acting director of Calgary building services, in an emailed release.

The community association said the fire department has been notified that the building is unoccupied.

The day before the building was ordered closed, on Friday, city council approved an infrastructure package to maintain recreation facilities, including roof maintenance.

Council directed 50 per cent of the community investment fund be spent on recreational facilities, which is $7.25 million for the next three years and $14.5 million in 2022.

"It's not coming out of the blue. Because of Fairview, there's been a heightened awareness, and we don't want a repeat of that and we're very lucky to be able to catch it early," Carra said.

The above notice was seen posted on the arena's door Sunday morning. (Helen Pike/CBC)