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Youth sports takes hit in Canmore Rec Centre renovation delays

Delays in renovating the Canmore Rec Centre (CRC) are concerning several user groups in the Bow Valley that rely on the facility for youth sports

CANMORE – Delays in renovating the Canmore Rec Centre (CRC) are concerning several user groups in the Bow Valley that rely on the facility for youth sports.

Schedules are being shuffled, clubs displaced, neighbouring communities as far as Airdrie were contacted for ice-rink use and other user groups sit in wait, as no firm date has been given for completion of phase one of the multi-million dollar renovation that has been ongoing for over a year already.

“From minor hockey standpoint, the delay of the rink is disappointing,” said Michael Hay, president of Canmore Minor Hockey Association. “As an association, we rely heavily on the facility to prepare kids to play hockey for the regular season and we would really like to see an effort put forth to facilitate kids playing hockey.”

CRC has Canmore’s only two sheets of indoor ice – the Thelma Crowe and Alex Kaleta arenas – with the latter undergoing much-needed renovations to upgrade structural deficiencies as part of the overall project.

There are 35 user groups that split time using the facilities, most involving children or teens in sport, including hockey teams, the gymnastics club, and clubs for speed skating and figure skating, some of which have already cancelled or relocated training practices, competitions and games.

“At the moment we are working with the Rec Centre staff and shuffling our schedules and expectations to minimize the impact on our skaters, in particular the ones preparing for important fall competitions,” wrote Norine Hori, Canmore Skating Club’s special projects director, in an email. “It’s hard to say at the moment what the full impact will be.”

Ian Mellors, head coach of Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club, said while the club cancelled a competition last year due to the facility not being ready, the delays are a “short-term pain for long-term gain.”

“While I understand people’s frustration, we have to remember, most of the project was maintenance to upgrade the Recreation Centre,” Mellors wrote in an email. “The maintenance will ensure that Recreation Centre is a structurally sound and functioning building for the next 25-30 years. The delays are inconvenient in the short term, but will be beneficial to all users for many years.”

The Town of Canmore owns the facility, and council approved a budget of $12.9 million for the Lifecycle Maintenance Project for the building, which has components that date back to the early 1980s.

Construction management of the renovation was awarded to Bird Construction and in 2018, renovations started in phases for the facility, which includes a massive structural upgrade to the Alex Kaleta Arena to meet current building code standards.

Other upgrades include improved green initiatives, LED lights throughout the facility, improved seating, replacement of the ice plant, upgraded washroom facilities and locker rooms and a large multi-purpose space overlooking the Alex Kaleta arena.

To see a complete list of renovations and new additions, visit here.

While the major construction is underway throughout the facility, Stephen Hanus, Canmore’s Manager of Facilities, whose department oversees the CRC, said they’re pleased the building has remained operational and provided a full ice-season last year, but noted the project’s complexity has caused delays.  

“Some of the challenges to date are discrepancies between existing drawings and what we actually find during construction, what you can’t necessarily identify during the planning stages because they’re literally behind closed walls and ceilings,” he said. “Some of the delays have been due to differences in the structural layout of the building compared to what’s actually there, some of it has also been hazmat. Identifying hazmat constraints during construction changes the game quite significantly at the time, so we have to ensure the safety of our patrons, our contractors and occupants in the building, first and foremost.

“We’re working the best we can to mitigate the delays and find the best solutions.”

The town is “spending its contingencies as needed” during the project, added Hanus.

Scott McKay, acting manager of recreation services, said the Town’s been working closely with user groups to mitigate impacts during construction and delays, such as securing ice time at Banff’s Fenlands Recreation Centre, which as two indoor ice rinks.

“Keeping our user groups informed is a high priority, throughout the project we’ve been sending out regular updates [approximately every two weeks], so that user groups understand what work is happening at the CRC and how it may impact their programming,” McKay wrote in an email.

A user group being regularly updated is the Canmore Eagles junior A hockey club, which uses the Alex Kaleta arena as home ice. The club is affected by delays in several ways since the renovation started. Effects included game relocations, summer camp constraints and potentially hurting chances of acquiring players due to shortened training camps.

“In the long run, kids take that as a bit of a slight when they don’t get invited to your main camp,” said Andrew Milne, the Eagles head coach and general manager. “It’s not that we don’t like them, but the reality is we do like them, we just don’t have anywhere to host them in camp and that’s frustrating. I hope it doesn’t affect us in the long term, but I know there’s some definite concern from our group.”

The 2019-20 season is the Eagles’ 25th anniversary and a total of six games (exhibition and regular season) being played outside of Canmore, including four regular season games at Fenlands on Sept. 20, Oct. 4, Oct. 6 and Oct. 11.

The Eagles tentative home opener at Alex Kaleta arena is Oct. 23.

This is the second consecutive season the Eagles readjusted its schedule with the Alberta Junior Hockey League to accommodate the renovations
and delays.

“This does impact our fans, season ticket holders and sponsors because it works out to be 20 per cent of our 25th anniversary season not being played in Canmore,” wrote Jacqueline Hurlbert, Eagles Director of Business Operations and Community Relations, in an email. “We are excited to share exhibition games with other Bow Valley Communities. And Banff always treats us so well so there are positives. We will turn these challenges into successes but the CRC is our home.”


Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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