Rainy River Recreation Centre assessing needs for new ice plant

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

After mechanical issues delayed the ice making season in Rainy River, the recreation centre is investigating the cost to replace the plant which is over 50 years old.

On Nov. 22 the Rainy River Recreation Centre sent out a notice that told residents why ice was not yet in place at the arena.

The notice talked about issues that the aging ice plant faces.

“In the process of turning on the plant a major mechanical problem was detected. We have been working to repair the plant for the past couple weeks and we are hopeful that it will be up and running by tomorrow evening (Nov. 23).”

The notice indicated the cost of the repair would end up between $11,000 and $15,000 after the dust settled. The repairs were funded by volunteer support and donations which come through a variety of community activities and events.

“The generous donations and proceeds from volunteer programs and events like Trail of Terror, Walleye Tournament Railroad Daze, Christmas Bulbs and Holiday Market are the reason we are able to repair the plant,” the notice said. “Without you we would not have a rink this year, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.”

The Rainy River Recreation Centre and Arena Facebook page has photos of the ice making progress posted by Rainy River resident Martin Kreger. The captions on those photos indicate ice making started on Nov. 24.

Rainy River Recreation centre director Mandy Blake said that the plant has needed replacing for a number of years now.

“Replacing the plant has been a conversation for many years, it’s just that financially, it’s been out of reach in order to accomplish that,” Blake said.

But the time has come that the consideration needs to be taken seriously.

“We’re in a place where that existing plant is not reliable, it’s gone through multiple repairs,” Blake said. “It’s extremely expensive to operate given the age and the condition of the plant and the facility. Our hope is to move forward with a plan to fundraise the resources so we can install a new up-to-date, energy efficient plant in our centre.”

It will take some time for all of the information to come together as far as replacing the plant but Blake is confident that when the information is available the community will come together to support the arena.

“This is going to be a huge initiative. We’re a non-profit centre so we don’t have a lot of financial resources available to us,” Blake said. “Once we know the exact dollar amount that we’re going to need in order to install a new plant and we have our plans together, we’re just hoping the community rallies with us, comes together and helps us with the fundraising initiatives that we put in place.”

While cost isn’t certain right now previous estimates indicate it will be an expensive venture.

“We did receive an estimate in 2015 and at that time it was about a half a million dollars,” Blake said. “That said, that was 2015 and the costs are not the same. So right now we’re in the process of having an estimate put together locally for a new plant, so we don’t have those numbers yet. Then, potentially, we’ll be looking at having a consultant come in and tell us what is the best fit for our facility, given its age, given its condition, given our existing infrastructure, what would be the best fit.”

Blake said she’s also looked at what other similar facilities have done, she things it will take a big chunk of money.

“Looking across what other recreation centres have had to do we’re looking at somewhere between half a million an $800,000,” Blake said. “But that’s a guess or an estimate until we have people come in and give us numbers that are suitable to our facility.”

Once all of the information has been gathered Blake says she hopes to keep the public apprised of the situation and begin fundraising as soon as possible, and they’ll look at all the possible avenues for funding.

“As much as we hope the community steps up and we’re able to fundraise a large amount of money, the reality is we’re a small town and our district is a series of small towns,” Blake said. “We’re going to need the support of government, we’re going to need grants. It’s all going to have to work together.”

Blake is confident that the community will come together on behalf of the arena once the figures are known.

“We hope to start fundraising initiatives pretty quickly, but we need to have the proper information for the public. So we need to know what our numbers are, what it is we’re planning to install before we really seek those funds. The Rec Centre is the heart of Rainy River. So we’re hoping that the community rallies around us, we’re hoping the District rallies around us, we’re sure that we’re going to have the support.”