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Decision on thaw or freeze as Bold Center arenas see little summer use

Ice , Ice ... maybe

LAC LA BICHE - Due to extremely low demand so far this year for Lac La Biche County’s only ice rink that operates in the summer months, the Bold Center could soon see the removal of its second sheet of ice at the facility’s twin arenas. 

The ice surface on one of the two rinks inside the recreation facility has already been removed as part of the annual schedule, but the second arena normally maintains its ice surface for some summer-ice public skating and hockey camps.  Because of the uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions and public health measures facing recreation facilities, there hasn't been much interest from potential ice users this year, says Darrell Lessmeister, the municipality's recreation boss.

Provincial Public Health Orders have kept the Bold Center doors closed to users, or open for restricted use for much of the year. As of May 5, the facility was again closed to the public. Even with the announcement by provincial health and political leaders last week that restrictions could ease if cases drop below pre-determined benchmarks, it would be at least another two weeks before recreation facilities could open — and even then, only at one-third of their fire code occupancies.

Lac La Biche County councillors are now considering if there is enough value to keeping the rink operating over the summer months.

The ice plant costs about $1,500 a week to keep the ice in the arena, says Lessmeister, calculating the $15,000 cost over the next 10 weeks. The ice plant at the Plamondon arena was shut down in March as in previous years.

“The big cost is our power,” he said. “We are keeping ice in at the most expensive time of the year. The hotter it gets, the harder that plant works to keep to keep ice in.” 

Between February 10 and April 7 of this year, the Bold Center ice had only been rented for a total of 19.5 hours for individual training sessions and family use, said Lessmeister. 

“There aren’t opportunities for groups to use [the ice] and we don't see that changing greatly, now that we are into the summer season. We are a little concerned with how much ice is going to get used,” Lessmeister said. “We usually have different kinds of training opportunities or hockey schools that go on, we don't have any bookings for this and there are very few inquiries about doing that because of the restrictions.” 

While the savings of a shut-down were known, the cost to perform the shutdown and fire the ice plant back up again was a missing piece to the equation, according to some county councillors. 

"There is a cost to resetting this up again, and I think we need to know what that is," said Mayor Omer Moghrabi.

Councillors agreed to wait until all costs were presented before making a decision on the ice. They are expected to get new information at their council meeting this Tuesday. Councillors also said that it wasn't all about money, and that if the new three stage plan announced by the province is successful, more activity could be coming to the Bold Center.