St. Boniface ice rink may not be ready for use until next August

Hockey players and skaters may not be able to return to a St. Boniface arena until next August after a new ice plant has been installed and is finally up and running.

Hockey mom worries loss of rink will hit her wallet, impact her French-speaking kids

Deferring maintenance on Winnipeg's arenas, pools and community centres could mean some facilities would eventually have to be closed. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Liliane Jegues is anticipating this hockey season will hit her wallet and three children hard as the St. Boniface arena they call home ice will be out of commission for another year.

Hockey players and skaters may not be able to return to Notre Dame Recreation Centre until next August after a new ice-making machine has been installed and is finally up and running.

Jegues​ says she is going to have to pay a lot more for her kids to play this year, in part, due to higher commuting costs she'll incur driving them to other arenas.

She is also worried about the future of her kids, who speak French and have been able to use their language at the arena.

"For my kids, it meant that they could learn hockey in a language they understood," she said. "If we get spread out to other teams within St. Boniface, the likelihood of having a French-speaking coach is not that likely."

The City of Winnipeg says it's been in talks with the Notre Dame Recreation Centre about both short- and long-term solutions after the centre's ice-making plant, which has been on the fritz for years, gave out before the start of this fall's hockey season.

But a short-term fix, which could get players back on the ice this season, doesn't make fiscal sense and could come at a cost of $40,000 with no guarantee it won't break again within a year, said arena president Raymond Comeault.

"A short-term solution would be a bandage on this plant," Comeault said in an interview with CBC Up to Speed host Ismaila Alfa on Wednesday.

Comeault said he was surprised to hear short-term solutions were being mulled by the city. He said on Tuesday a city representative met with recreation centre staff and there seemed to be a consensus that a short-term fix wouldn't be a good use of taxpayer or community club dollars, given how old the current ice plant is.

In an email to CBC News, city spokesperson Tamara Forlanski said the ultimate decision will be up to the centre's board, which will get technical advice from the city. The decision would be based on the organization's fundraising capabilities and potential grants it could get from the city, she said.

Comeault said while no final decision has been made, it's looking like the arena will pay about $460,000 to have a new Freon ice plant installed.

Getting a Freon ice plant installed is a significantly cheaper option than an ammonia ice plant, which would cost around $1.2 million, Comeault said.

The ice machine at the Notre Dame Arena in St. Boniface has been ailing for years. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

The club had been anticipating the high replacement cost for years and has about $300,000 in the bank to help pay the expected bill, Comeault added.

"We knew it was at the end of its lifespan," he said, adding until the replacement can happen several hockey teams, as well as kids who come to skate at the rink, will be left to find other ice to play on.

"It's definitely not pleasant," said Comeault, adding one team that previously used the rink has found ice to play on.

He explained the current plan is to have a new ice plant up and running in January 2019, but said people wouldn't be able to immediately use the rink because the club wants to give it a good few months as a test run.

He said in an ideal world the new ice machine would be completely ready by next August for the 2019 hockey season after Folklorama is done, which uses the St. Boniface facility.​

With files from Susan Magas and Austin Grabish

With files from Susan Magas and Austin Grabish