Faulty plumbing melts ice in Kugluktuk's showplace hockey arena

Water, water everywhere and nary a place to skate


KUGLUKTUK- By all rights, a hockey rink in the Arctic should have ice, says Derek Power, the mayor of Kugluktuk.

But only puddles of water dot Kugluktuk's enormous concrete rink, where floor hockey and lacrosse are played more often than ice hockey.

Power says his hamlet is too poor to fix the rink. He blames Nunavut for not spending enough money in the western part of the territory. And he also accuses Inuit land claim organizations of hoarding cash received from mining companies in the region.

The result? An ice-free rink for this Kitikmeot community of 1,300.

Built in 2001, the arena was supposed to be the centrepiece of Kugluktuk, with a rink where hockey players of all ages would pass the long winter.

But the rink is now fit for skating only from late December to early March.

"By the time we get a league going, we don't have any more ice," Power said.

Power, who grew up in Newfoundland, says as a boy he used to play more ice hockey outdoors on frozen ponds than his children can today in Kugluktuk.

The lack of a usable rink rankles youth, who say they're bored with playing street hockey.

And the arena's state is also a sore point with Joe Allen Evyagotailak, MLA for Kugluktuk. He's reminded the Nunavut legislature how sad it is that "the 2010 Olympic logo will be an inuksuk when hamlets in Nunavut are struggling to keep recreation facilities open."

When Kugluktuk's rink was built, pipes laid under the surface were supposed to maintain smooth ice. But the design and construction materials were flawed, Power says.

Now these pipes don't provide any cooling. Instead, they act as heat conductors, drawing warmth from other parts of the building. This means the end of the rink closest to the heated portion of the building often becomes slushy.

Power says either the rink needs to be insulated from the rest of the arena or the pipe system needs to be repaired so that it works properly. But the local construction company, Mulco, which built the rink, declared bankruptcy last year.

Power says his pleas to the Nunavut government to step in and carry out the repairs have gone nowhere.

But he doesn't think his hamlet, which just now pulled out of a $1 million deficit – most of it associated with the bungled arena project – should draw on its limited resources to foot the bill.

Two years ago, the hamlet threatened to close the arena to save $150,000 a year. About 50 people marched to the hamlet office in Kugluktuk, carrying placards that read, "Don't close our complex," and "Recreation is life, don't take it away."

The arena remained open, but the rink still needs fixing.

Power says Kugluktuk is too far away from the centre of power in Iqaluit to argue its case for the repairs. Kugluktuk's share of Nunavut's plan to spend $130 million on improving infrastructure, revealed earlier this year, included $2.9 million for water treatment plant, $2 million for sewage lagoon, and $3 million for hamlet office building, but nothing for the arena.

Power says the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated are also stingy with sharing any money received from mining development around the community.

"We get whatever they decide out of the goodness of their hearts to give us," Power said.

He'd like to see more accountability about what happens to the money the KIA and NTI receive from resource development on Inuit lands.

Power was not able to attend last week's meeting of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities in Iqaluit because a blizzard delayed his departure, but he says local governments need the royalty revenues that could flow out of a devolution agreement on resource development.

"What happens when the mines are gone? Where will the infrastructure be? Why should we have an arena with no ice?" Power asked.

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