The city is hoping to reopen the Memorial Arena in early January after an ammonia leak scare closed the facility in the summer due to a malfunctioning refiridgeration plant chiller.
Since then, staff have been working to replace the chiller with a new heat exchanger, which is a more efficient system and uses signifcantly less ammonia, according to a city report.
Because of the new system that was installed, the arena needed to be closed in order to do the re-piping that needed to be done for the facility to meet code.
Jan. 2, 2019 is the tentative date for reopening the arena, with the Kinsmen Arena, which piggybacks off the same system, to follow two weeks later.
The city is estimating the cost of the project at $320,000.
“This could have been so much worse and we are very fortunate that it was not and I just commend staff,” said Coun. Norma Blissett. “Yes, it’s $320,000 but we always have surplus and we have reserves, at least for now, and we could have been paying off a lot more and it could have been awful for all of us.”
The plant chiller was set to be replaced in 2019 at an estimated cost of $150,000 according to previous budget projections.
According to city staff, the new heat exchanger cost $190,000, but the final cost was driven up by having to bring in outside consultants, having security on site, and renovating the facility to accommodate the new equipment.
It will be paid for through current fiscal year surplus, said staff.
The arena has been shut down since Aug. 23rd, when an arena operator was troubleshooting some problems during the refrigeration plant start-up. A strong odour of ammonia was detected in a brine sample, touching off a shut down and initiation of emergency protocols.
Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services contained the area while waiting for a contractor from Calgary to arrive, who confirmed that the refrigeration plant chiller had leaked ammonia.
Ammonia leaks can carry tragic consequences; three people died inside the Fernie Memorial Arena a year ago after ammonia leaked from the facility’s chiller unit.