Moncton Coliseum gets $240K safety upgrades to reduce ammonia leak hazard

Moncton city council approved spending almost $240,000 on safety upgrades at the 45-year-old Moncton Coliseum to add measures to detect and protect workers from potential ammonia leaks.

New measures will detect, protect workers from potential ammonia leaks

An alarm system to warn of leaks will be added at the Moncton Coliseum ice plant. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

A fatal ammonia leak at an arena in British Columbia has prompted Moncton to spend almost $240,000 on renovations to the Moncton Coliseum.

City council approved spending on the 45-year-old arena to detect and protect workers from potential ammonia leaks.

Sherry Trenholm, Moncton's director of municipal facilities, said the province required the city to carry out the work or else shut down the ice plant that keeps the ice surface cool.

"The Coliseum, because of the age of the building, is not to code compliance," Trenholm said.

Avondale Construction Ltd. was awarded the tender at a cost of $239,541.55, including HST. The city also set aside almost $12,000 for any unforeseen costs.

The work involves adding vestibules around the ice plant portion of the 6,500-seat arena as well as an alarm system to warn of ammonia leaks.

The Moncton Coliseum, opened in 1973, will undergo renovations worth more than $230,000 to add safety measures to protect people from ammonia leaks. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

The work comes almost exactly a year after three employees died at the Fernie Memorial Arena in Fernie, B.C., after ammonia leaked from rink's refrigeration equipment.

Ammonia is commonly used in mechanical refrigeration systems. The substance is used in liquid form in these systems but becomes a gas once it is released into the air.

The colourless gas is toxic if inhaled and can cause death, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety states.

Provincial safety inspections

In February, the New Brunswick government announced more than 100 hockey rinks and curling arenas across the province would undergo safety inspections.

A staff report to city council warned that failure to approve the tender on Monday would "result in an immediate order to shut down the ice plant at the Moncton Coliseum by the Province of New Brunswick."

The arena's ice plant was started Sept. 27, though Trenholm said safety measures have been put in place while the upgrades are carried out.

The arena will remain open as the construction is completed. The work is expected to be done in December, said the city official.

Coliseum repurposed

Earlier this year, the city approved a plan to repurpose the Coliseum to mainly host trade shows, though it also opted to keep its ice plant so the arena can be used for recreational sports. 

The Moncton Wildcats moved from the Coliseum to the Avenir Centre when it opened last month. 

Trenholm said inspections also found issues at the Kay Arena and Superior Propane Centre. She said the work is already done at those newer arenas.