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Deteriorating cooling equipment to be pulled from Children’s Arena

The ice pad at Children’s Arena will not be coming back following a city council decision to remove its cooling equipment from the facility rather than replace it. If ice were to return, the arena would need $155,000 in immediate repairs, plus an extra $3.8 million over the next five years. It is estimated the removal will cost $20,000.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The far-gone equipment of days past, responsible for keeping the ice slick and parents just a little bit too chilly at Children’s Arena, is about to be removed.

City council has approved the removal of the evaporative condenser, supportive structure and other machinery at Children’s Arena as “the condition of the abandoned equipment and support structure continues to deteriorate and is of significant risk to the city,” the motion reads.

It is estimated that removing the equipment will cost approximately $20,000, set to come from the city’s already approved Arena Maintenance Program budget of $50,000.

The decision drew questions from Councillor Amy McQuaid-England at the committee level, who was concerned with council pulling funds from an approved budget that had funds already designated for other projects at Legends Centre and the Donevan Recreation Complex.

And while Ron Diskey, commissioner of corporate services, first noted that “something will be deferred, but we’re not really sure at this time,” he would confirm in the meeting that the compressor overhaul at Donevan would be getting the axe for 2017. Diskey also noted that while the Children’s Arena equipment removal was not budgeted for this year, staff was aware the project needed to be done.

“Staff have been aware of the issue and we want to address it at this time,” he said.

It did not sit well with the councillor.

“It was budgeted this year for a reason, based on need,” said McQuaid-England of the Donevan project. “We need to have a better understanding of these capital projects and what’s being left out.”

The rink at Children’s Arena has been a dry pad since council approved a pilot project in 2015. A vote in March 2016 carried unanimously to make the project permanent. The idea did not sit well with some in the city’s sporting community and had echoes of the Harman Park Arena fiasco, which saw councillors back-pedalling on a decision to close the aging structure following strong community backlash in 2012.

Councillors wanted to once again reassure citizens that even without Children’s Arena, there is enough ice to go around.

“Obviously, when you starting shutting down or taking away some sports entities, people get a little upset,” said Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki. “It’s important that people realize we are able to do this without impacting any shortage of ice supply for our children.”

According to Diskey, there are 29 hours of ice time that remain vacant during the regular ice season and, as a dry pad, the arena has been nearly filled to capacity as the only such facility in the GTA during the fall and winter months.

The city also avoided a costly bill of repairs by making the arena a dry pad, with a 2016 report estimating that $155,000 would have been needed immediately, plus an additional $3.8 million over the next five years.

In order to extend the life of one of Oshawa’s most historic arenas for the next 15 to 20 years, a previous report noted that approximately $775,000 is needed for roof repairs, $950,000 for HVAC replacement and repairs, $400,000 for interior finishes and other equipment, $200,000 in pavement and sidewalk repairs and $20,000 for compressor maintenance. These items are dwarfed by the fact that the under-slab heating system needed repairs, the work for which would total approximately $1.4 million.