Options include repair, &#39c;onversion; to events centre or outright sale to private sector

City seeks permanent fix for sinking arena


Iqaluit city council is mulling a permanent fix for the city's beleaguered Arctic Winter Games arena.

John Hussey, the city's chief administrative officer, told Nunatsiaq News the city wants to repair the rink, convert it into an events centre or sell the arena to the private sector.

Hussey said there's also a fourth option, one that successive councils have chosen in the past: doing nothing.

"That's not helping," Hussey said. "Council doesn't want to keep living with that."

Consulting firm Trow Associates issued a preliminary report to the city's economic development committee that outlines possibilities for fixing the floor.

Hussey doesn't want to release the document and is keeping details close to his chest, but says the options range from a "couple of hundred thousand" dollars to a "couple of million."

He said the more the city spends up front on the project, the less it will cost in annual maintenance.

A possible solution is one the city rejected in 2004, which would have seen a drain built around the building and annual injections of concrete into the floor to keep the surface stable. That would have cost about $100,000 a year.

The floor of the arena, built for $4 million as a partnership between governments and the private sector, has been sinking into the tundra almost since the day it opened in 2002.

Hussey said the building now costs the city $95,000 for utilities every year and hosts just a handful of events, such as annual Nunavut trade show and the occasional concert.

That has the city considering the possibility of converting the building into an events centre, with sonic improvements that would make the room more suitable for concerts. There's no technical study yet on how that would happen, Hussey said.

But a new arena and a performing arts centre have long been on the city's wish list and Iqaluit will have to build one or the other. The city's booming population means the Arnaitok Arena, already 30 years old, is booked to capacity during the hockey season.

"The existing arena isn't getting any younger," Hussey said.

The third option would see the city sell the building and put the money into a reserve for a multi-purpose recreation centre, a project that's long been on mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik's wish list.

Hussey said it'll be a year before council makes a final decision on any plan.

"We can't rush this," he said.

In the meantime, he said the city will meet with sports groups, event planners and the public to gather input on the project.

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