Two rural Saskatchewan arenas in Edenwold and Francis have been forced to close for the season after both were deemed unsafe due to structural damage.
Each community is dealing with a separate issue. Francis’ rink used to be an old hangar, constructed during the Second World War as a training facility originally in Mossbank that was eventually moved and converted into the community’s arena. The beams that hang over the ice surface have been deemed unsafe forcing the rink to close until they are able to fix the structure.
“Unfortunately those beams are over 90 years old and just after decades and decades of snow load and weight sitting on them, they began to show their age. One of the beams started sagging and is starting to split,” Stuart Hall, a board member for Francis’ rink said.
The damage was taken into consideration at the end of last year’s season but the process has not been easy for the town.
“Originally in March of this year, we noticed that we had some structural issues going on and at that time we started getting in touch with an engineer. Unfortunately, that is not a quick process. So within the last month, we got the drawings back and unfortunately, the news that we will be unable to open the rink this year,” Hall explained.
Hall says that originally they were not sure if they would ever be able to use the skating rink again, but he remains hopeful they will have it back next year after raising some money and finding the right construction companies to fix the problem.
“If we were to go do everything through a contractor without any help from volunteers, or any sort of extra help, it would be close to $400,000 in order to repair the rink for absolutely every item that was on the report,” he said. “Fortunately, we were able to get some clarification and kind of what are the immediate things, what are the down the road things that are able to be done. Luckily we are able to cut that estimate in half in order to be able to move forward with some repairs and be able to build a timeframe for what needs to be completed in what order in order to be able to reopen our rink for the 2024-25 season,” he shared.
However, the loss of a full season plus the cost of repairs will be felt by the community, which according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 census is home to just 182 residents.
“Emotionally it is going to be the biggest loss for a lot of us,” Hall said. “The rink is the backbone of our community we don’t have much else out here besides our rink,” Hall said.
According to Hall, the community’s curling rink as well as the arena’s upstairs section where dances and various other events are held will still be open.
As for the repairs, Hall said they are cutting costs by making some cuts to what needs to be done right now in hopes of prolonging other areas that will need to be fixed in the future.
“We know 15 years from now we’re going to have to start planning to replace this rink. It gives us a lot more manageable timeframe. We were able to get some clarification on kind of what are immediate things, what are the down the road things and luckily we are able to cut that [$400,000] estimate in half,” Hall said.
The irony for Hall is that he grew up in Edenwold before moving to Francis and says seeing both towns struggle with costly rink repairs really hits home for him.
“That’s where I learned to skate. That’s where everything started for me. Unfortunately for them the situation they’re having it’s not just the case of one beam or a few beams, it affects the entire structure,” he said.
Hall is referring to the powderpost beetle issue that has taken over the town of Edenwold’s indoor wooden framing of the rink.
“We had a contractor come in to start repairing our boards, as quite a few were quite wonky,” Jordan Nargang, who is the vice president of Edenwold’s rink board said.
“They came in here to start work and they noticed a bunch of sawdust on the ground. They concluded that it was a beetle infestation. From there we brought in a fumigation company, so they’re helping us make a plan to fumigate. We had to stop our contracting for now and we brought in two different engineering companies to help us see how much damage is done. We’re pretty confident we got it in time that we can repair the beams that need repair,” Nargang said.
Nargang also shared this is an uncommon problem to have.
“It is extremely frustrating for how rare this beetle is in Saskatchewan. So for this to be holding us up is pretty frustrating and pretty devastating because we have the funds in place to fix all our boards and put glass up and new LED lighting in the rink. So we pretty much have to put all that on the back burner and focus on the structural part,” he said.
The rink already raised over $200,000 just a couple of years ago for a new roof which will make it even tougher to try and raise a similar amount once again.
“It’s going to be tough. We just raised that much money to put a new roof on two years ago, and we did it in four years. This is more of a time crunch because we can stay open if we fix it. We’re losing you know, $30,000-$35,000 a year in net profits by being closed,” said Nargang. “This is a huge loss for us and the surrounding communities. We are [normally] fully booked, seven days a week.”
The good news is, as Nargang explained, they are optimistic the beetles were caught in time and that they can still save the structure.
“We had a company come in that specializes in wood structures. They basically use tools that are non-invasive that they can read voids in the wood. We’re pretty confident with them that they’re going to help us moving forward,” said Nargang.
The company will come to do an initial assessment of each beam. After that, they will get a scope of the building to see which ones need to be repaired and will give the town of Edenwold a chance to fully assess what the cost will be going forward and how long the repairs will take.
Nargang says the town of just under 300 people is already finding ways to raise money and also noted that seeing other communities in the past few years deal with costly rink repairs is tough, as well as the trickle-down affect is has on the town.
“The rinks are your central building for get-togethers. We have wing nights in our rink, the daycare is just being constructed in our town as well. They use our facility for fundraisers, which now hurts them. We were going to let them use all the funds from the kitchen this year to go toward the project as well. So it’s pretty tough,” he said.