Juan de Fuca Arena to close until spring 2021 for major repair

Juan de Fuca Arena will be closed for repairs until next spring, leaving hockey teams and figure skaters scrambling to find ice time elsewhere.

West Shore Parks and Recreation says the arena’s heating system underneath its rink floor, which helps to prevent the ground from heaving, needs to be repaired. Three of the system’s six thermal cables have not worked since 2012.

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Repairs had been scheduled to begin next spring, after the end of the 2020-2021 season, but a fourth cable failed in March, leading to public safety concerns.

“Using the ice without a heating system will cause further heaving of the floor. It is imperative that the arena floor is fixed immediately and ahead of its intended schedule,” West Shore Parks and Recreation said in statement.

The arena is home to the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association and Juan de Fuca Skating Club.

Harold Bloomenthal, president of the hockey association, said the loss of the rink is “devastating” for the association’s roughly 700 players.

“Each year we’re begging, borrowing whatever ice we can get to make sure the kids get a robust program,” Bloomenthal said.

The association has more than 40 teams with players ages five to 18. They split ice time fairly evenly between Juan de Fuca Arena, the nearby The Q Centre and Westhills Arena in Langford, and they also get time at CFB Esquimalt’s Wurtele Arena.

Bloomenthal said the association is trying to get additional ice time at other rinks, but there’s a limit to what’s available, especially because the figure skating club is in the same boat.

The closure comes at a difficult time, with children’s activities already heavily disrupted by public health measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, he said.

“It pains me to see kids losing out on what they enjoy,” Bloomenthal said.

Despite the closure, the season will go ahead, and coaches are being asked to be imaginative with their training methods, he said.

“We can get them on rollerblades. Teach them team tactics, let them play ball hockey. … Even if they’re out there getting conditioning on a field having a fun game of soccer, whatever the heck it is, part of their needs — which is to be around their friends and have a meaningful time — will still be satisfied,” he said.

The Juan de Fuca Skating Club, which has close to 300 skaters, said it is looking for ice time at other facilities. Its summer program will take place at The Q Centre, and they hope to secure ice time at Westhills Arena during the fall and winter seasons.

“The JDFSC is the largest club on Vancouver Island and has been for many years, so offering the ice time needed for our programs is very important,” coach Leslee Rushton said in an email.

West Shore Parks and Recreation posted a request for proposals for the project on the B.C. Bid website last week. It is looking to remove and replace the arena’s ice slab with a new slab and supporting in-floor refrigeration system. The deadline is Aug. 5.

Repairs are expected to be completed by spring 2021.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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