A structural and life span assessment on the Civic Centre, as well as an energy audit, has been planned for in the City of North Battleford's 2014 budget.
"With vision," said Parks and Recreation Director Bill Samborski at Monday's city budget deliberations, "included in this budget are funds set aside for a comprehensive study on the Civic Centre."
The study will provide a structural and energy analysis that council can use in making key future decisions, he said.
Those decisions could be influenced, also, by the fact that administration has recommended the city not re-open the Agriplex as a rink. It would cost $380,000 just to get folks on the ice, said Samborski. And that's without addressing the need for a new ice plant or any other infrastructure improvements.
Built in 1962, the 2,500 seat Civic Centre hosts Junior A, AAA Midget and minor hockey, skating, powwows, concerts, galas and more. Year round, it employs three full time staff and a variety of part time staff.
If a study into the Civic Centre finds there are 20 or more years left in its life, it may be worth investing in the Agriplex, he said. But if not, council may want to consider a succession plan that includes a new building with two ice surfaces, one with spectator space and one without, that would share equipment.
"This is a building that is facing some expensive upgrades in the heating system, particularly the blower unit that provides warm air for spectators," said Samborski. "We refer to it as the 'green monster.'"
The blower unit of the 'green monster' is original to the building.
Not only is it expensive to operate, it's more than surpassed its life expectancy, said Samborski.
Further to that, he said, on a typical day in the Civic Centre when there might be a handful of spectators they have to heat the whole building just to get heat to a few people.
"We have no way right now of heating an area or just a zone."
To mitigate that expense, the parks and recreation department has undertaken a "little bit of an experiment," said Samborski.
They have heated the sections behind the home and visitors players' benches with radiant heat from hot water.
On weekends or after school when there are only a few spectators, they will be encouraged to sit behind the players' boxes so the whole building won't have to be heated.
"I think it's going to work," said Samborski. "It's certainly going to take a little bit of the edge off."
While going over the budget details for capital expenses and operating expenses, Samborski also brought council's attention to the need to make a decision around the Agriplex, the building the city co-owns with the Battlefords Agricultural Society. The Ag Society has use of it in the summer, and the City has been operating it in the winter as an ice rink - until this winter. It was "temporarily" closed due to safety concerns, and administration has not put any operations or capital expense entries in the 2014 budget.
The Agriplex had been contributing approximately 650 hours of ice time per season, and the City could absorb only 100 hours into the Don Ross Centre arena and the Civic Centre, creating an ice time shortage in the Battlefords by some 550 hours.
There are groups who have been forced to go out of town for ice time, although Samborski says he has not received any formal correspondence from the minor hockey or skating organizations.
In order to get the Agriplex running as a rink again, the City would have to invest at least $380,000 this year.
Improvements needed are a new dasher board and glass system worth $170,000 and the addition of a small female dressing room and small referee room with one toilet and shower at a cost of $200,000. Another $10,000 would be required for architectural drawings.
Samborski pointed out that does not include any dollars for a new ice plant or improvements to emergency doors, overhead doors, the concessions area, the lobby area or existing dressing rooms.
Samborski also told council he would like to see the old dasher boards kept by the City, even though the original plan had been to sell them. He said they could be useful for plans the department has for outdoor rinks and other future projects.
The future of the Agriplex has been in limbo for some time. In Februrary of 2012 council considered closing it, but since there was money in the budget to finish out the season, and because it would cause a significant disruption of the minor hockey schedule, council voted to finish out the season.
The plan was to leave the future of the Agriplex up to the next council. There was an election coming up that fall.
Dialogue with the Battlefords Agricultural Society and with the minor hockey association will likely be had before any decisions are made for the 2014-15 season.