Money pit rec centre under review

DAWSON CITY Dawson’s problematic recreational centre is the subject of a review to determine if building a new centre would be cheaper than…

DAWSON CITY

Dawson’s problematic recreational centre is the subject of a review to determine if building a new centre would be cheaper than sinking more money into repairs.

The centre was built several years ago with a $8.4-million initital price tag, but costs haven’t stopped there.

In 2006, record show costs rose to $10.5 million.

“Unfortunately there were some deficiencies with the building,” said mayor John Steins. “It doesn’t function that well as a rec centre.”

Constant problems forced the town to spend money on upgrades and repairs every year since construction was completed, said Steins.

Recently, the town spent $400,000 to insulate the centre’s Zamboni room because hot air was leaking into the rink.

There is no infrastructure in place for artificial ice; the curling rink’s roof is damaged and unstable ground has caused some cement on the property to shift.

A team of engineers, contractors and other consultants has completed an assessment of the building and will draft a report for the town and the Yukon government.

“There’s a psychological hang-up about the building,” said Steins. “There’s a perception it’s a white elephant and it’s better just to walk away from it and build a new one. But it’d be irresponsible of council to just buy into that without properly assessing the viability of the structure.”

The rec centre houses hockey and curling rinks, space for a weight room and a kitchen. The second floor will remain undeveloped until a decision is made about the building, said Steins.

The previous town council was involved in court battles with contractors and architects over numerous structural problems with the property on which the centre was built.

The complicated past has left citizens unsure of what to expect next, if anything at all.

“Dawsonites deserve a functioning rec centre just like other communities,” said Steins.

“The community is so jaded they don’t expect much of anything at this point. We’ve been burned many times before so it’ll be a pleasant surprise when we get something that everyone is happy with and doesn’t fail.”

Steins said he thinks the report will suggest a drilling program around the building.

It was a mistake during construction not to excavate the rink down to the gravel and then backfill it with the right material to ensure quality ice conditions, he said.

The town instead went with the cheaper alternative of using buried thermal siphons to draw heat away from ground.

“It doesn’t work,” said Steins. “It ended up being penny-wise, pound foolish because it was one-fifth the cost of excavation but it doesn’t work.”

Steins expects to see the report in three or four weeks.

“Will it be throwing good money away if we keep making improvements, like the installation of artificial ice?” said Steins. “Would that prove foolhardy in the end?”