The Fernie Ghostriders will meet their East Kootenay rivals, the Kimberley Dynamiters, at home on Saturday after roof repairs at Fernie Memorial Arena were fast-tracked to ensure a timely reopening.
Hockey games between the two towns regularly draw sellout crowds, but uncertainty surrounding the reopening of the community ice rink had cast doubt on the highly-anticipated December 1 game.
The arena has been closed since early November to allow for vital roof truss repairs, with home games moved to Sparwood for the duration of the closure.
The repairs, valued at more than $250,000, were going as planned until lead paint was discovered at the aging facility, forcing contractor Tyee Log & Timber to stop work for three days while WorkSafe BC attended the site.
News of the reopening has come as a huge relief to the Ghostriders and other user groups, who were recently informed by the City that it was unlikely the arena would be ready in time.
Ghostriders President Barb Anderson made the announcement via email on Tuesday.
“The Fernie Ghostriders would like to thank the City of Fernie and (contractor) Tyee for making this happen,” she said.
“Come out and make some noise.”
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. at Fernie Memorial Arena on Saturday, December 1.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the City said it had received notice from the contractor that the roof truss repairs had been expedited and the arena would reopen on Saturday for the previously scheduled Ghostriders home game.
“The City of Fernie is excited to have the Fernie Memorial Arena opening on December 1 for the Ghostriders game,” said Marta Proctor, Director of Community Services.
“We thank the community and user groups for their patience during the construction process. We also would like to extend thanks to our contractor Tyee Log & Timber for their efforts in expediting this work.
“We look forward to a great winter season.”
The City of Fernie has committed to working with user groups to assist with scheduling going forward.
However, for some user groups, the news has come too late.
On Monday, The Free Press reported Fernie Minor Hockey cancelled six league games and a tournament after learning the roof repairs may not be completed by this weekend.
The tournament was scheduled for December 7-9 and involved seven teams from the U.S. and Alberta.
“I’m happy for the Ghostriders and I’m happy to hear that the arena is going to open after all, however, it’s too late for what we had to cancel,” said Fernie Minor Hockey President Tracey Kelly on Tuesday.
“We’ll just try to move on with the season the best that we can, schedule what we can and take it from there,” she said.
Kelly previously told The Free Press cancelling the weekend’s event affects the club’s fundraising ability as well as local businesses, which benefit from visiting teams.
“Our tournaments bring a lot of people to town in shoulder season when the skiing has not yet ramped up and biking has wound down, so on average we bring about $50,000 a weekend into the community with hotel stays, restaurants, shopping etc.,” she said.
The club will try to reschedule the tournament for later in the season but expects it will be hard to attract teams with scheduling done well in advance and limited hotel availability.
Communication between the user groups and the City has been an issue throughout the arena closure, with some groups finding out information secondhand then contacting City Hall to confirm.
Many were planning their seasons around the projected December 1 reopening, unaware that the contract end date was December 5 with a bonus/penalty clause for early or late completion.
Kelly is hopeful there will be more transparency going forward.
“The City has reached out to us and wants to have better communication,” she said Tuesday.
According to an email from City staff, other user groups could be back on the ice as of Sunday, December 2.