Houston arena ice plant install date pushed back

In-service date now in December

The in-service date for the Claude Parish Memorial Arena’s new ice making plant has been delayed until early December, a memo to arena users from District of Houston leisure services director Tasha Kelly states.

Compressors for the new plant arrived two and a half weeks in September than originally scheduled, setting back the installation start, said Kelly.

“The refrigeration technician expects to complete the install in eight weeks, but has strongly advised we schedule 10 weeks to successfully complete install before arena staff begin making ice,” Kelly continued.

“Thus, we do not foresee users on the ice until Dec. 4. I can understand that this news is very disappointing and will be strongly felt across our community.”

Ice users had already been told ice would not be ready until November, causing the District of Houston council to make available, at no charge, the arena floor for dryland training and other uses.

The added delay is on top of other setbacks, beginning with a first round of tenders being in excess of what the District had budgeted to replace an existing but aging refrigeration plant.

“During the last tender process, there was only bid received. Once awarded, the successful bidder was still required to order the custom plant, requiring three-four month lead time before delivery. There are no two refrigeration plants the same, thus increasing the difficulty to determine arrival dates,” Kelly said in the memo.

A plant replacement followed an incident in Fernie in October 2017 in which three people were killed because of an ammonia leak at the arena there.

That prompted a province-wide inspection of refrigeration plants with many placed on the list for replacement to meet new standards.

“Following the Fernie incident in 2017, the demand for new refrigeration plants across the province has drastically increased; driving costs up and availability of technicians down. As costs continue to trend upwards, there is no breaking point in sight, as the few refrigeration companies in the B.C. are overwhelmed with work,” Kelly noted.

A key to the project finally going ahead was receiving a $250,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust this spring and allocating $150,000 from a provincial grant to complete the financing needed for the $816,072 project.

Actual costs, including a contingency, were then set at just over $945,000 because of the need to construct a new plant room.

Kelly said she understood that user groups would be frustrated by the added delay which will affect minor hockey and figure skaters.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we want to make sure that our facility is safe for both staff and public use. Unfortunately, the old refrigeration plant was operating well beyond its lifespan; any mechanical breakdown during the season would have resulted in lost ice,” she wrote.

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