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SCRD approves installing ice at Sunshine Coast Arena

To top up the system’s supply to meet the added arena demands, the SCRD board also approved making a request to the Town of Gibsons to resume supplying supplemental water to the system.  
Ice is returning to the Sunshine Coast Arena just in time for a hockey tournament.

Ice for the Sunshine Coast Arena is a go once the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board chair and the Mayor of Sechelt update orders under the State of Local Emergency (SOLE). The SCRD board supported removing that Sechelt location from an order banning use of Chapman system water. 

To top up the system’s supply to meet the added arena demands, the SCRD board also approved making a request to the Town of Gibsons to resume providing supplemental water to the system.  

Those actions and adjustments to the SCRD financial plan to cover costs of exploring and potentially maintaining ice using "alternate" water sources were endorsed at a special board meeting on Nov. 15. All were approved through a default corporate vote of the board (one vote per member), with Area B director Justine Gabias, Area E director Donna McMahon and Area F director Kate Stamford voting in opposition.

Delays to the opening of a skating surface at the site for the fall 2022 season began on Aug. 31 when the SCRD implemented Stage 4 water restrictions for users connected to the Chapman water system. Staff outlined that while the decision is a matter of practice for the local government staff, the order under the SOLE was binding and required board direction to change.  

Gibsons 'doing really well with our water'

The suggestion that Gibsons provide water so that ice could be installed as soon as possible came from area director and Town mayor Silas White. He commented his community was "doing really well with our water” and could provide more than the maximum of 1,000 cubic meters per day that it had supplied earlier in 2022 to the SCRD’s Chapman system.

Chapman water preferred for ice install

According to the staff report, installation of ice at the arena requires about 80 cubic metres of water. Operation of the arena refrigeration plant and daily maintenance of the ice requires between 90 and 120 cubic metres per week.

The report also pointed out that using Chapman system water was "the most financially cost effective and logistically expedient option to get the Sunshine Coast Arena operational" when compared to using alternate water sources. Trucking water to the site from other systems or non-potable sources had been proposed by the Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association in efforts to get the ice ready for a tournament booked for Nov. 25.

General manager of community services Shelley Gagnon said staff “would be very challenged to meet that timeline using an alternate water source for the install”. By using Chapman system water, which is the arena’s approved supply, she said installation of the ice could be completed withing eight to 10 days.

Maintaining ice with water from other sources was less of an issue in Gagnon’s view. She pointed out that still presented challenges related to storage, pumping, potential adjustments to arena equipment and ensuring it meets with the approval of Vancouver Coastal Health and WorkSafeBC for the purposes it is used for.

“I think we have to be creative here and move with things. This is an opportunity for the community,” Sechelt area director and mayor John Henderson stated. Along with thanking White for the offer of water to “backfill” the Chapman system, Henderson made an offer of using groundwater from a well located at the Sechelt water resource centre, within a short drive of the arena site for the maintenance of the ice. 

Caution related to Chapman supply

During the debate, words of caution came from McMahon. She reminded the directors that they had spent the morning in an Emergency Operations Centre meeting where they were told that the SOLE related to the Chapman system may have to remain in force throughout the winter. Her concern was maintaining adequate supplies for the hospital and fire fighting. 

She asked if by putting ice in, that committed the board to maintaining ice operations for the entire season. Board members Henderson and White indicated that they did not see the installation decision as “binding for the rest of the season”. Should the situation dictate, both mayors said they would be willing to consider a motion to stop the water supplies to the arena and allow the surface to go back to dry-floor use.

Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted Area B director Justine Gabias's vote against the installation of ice at the Sunshine Coast Arena.