Town officials have closed parts of the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre in Dawson City due to concerns about melting permafrost. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News)

Unsteady ground closes part of Dawson City’s recreation centre

Parts of the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre are closed until at least mid September

Dawson City’s recreation centre has been partially shut down until at least mid-September over concerns about melting permafrost under the building.

An engineer hired by the town to look at the structure of the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre recommended that the hockey and curling rinks, along with the curling lounge and the second floor of the administrative building, be closed.

“Considering the uncertainty of the structural performance under the deteriorating soil conditions and in the interest of occupant safety, we recommend partial closure of the facility until further structural analysis can be performed to ascertain otherwise,” reads a memo from professional engineer Kitty Leung dated Aug. 1.

A geotechnical survey is scheduled for September, said Trina Buhler, project manager with the city. The closures will remain in place until at least Sept. 19, when city council is slated to receive a final report on the situation.

“It’s a precaution that the city is taking,” she said. “Obviously we’re hoping for the best and when we get the results we’ll definitely look at solutions.”

The recreation centre is built on permafrost. Until more investigation is done, “one would need to assume thawing might have progressed all the way down or even below the bottom of the existing pad foundations anywhere in the existing facility,” the engineer’s memo says.

The centre’s design means too much thawing of permafrost could lead to problems for the building’s supports in the event of high winds or an earthquake.

The administration block has a different type of framing than the rest of the facility. The main floor of the administration building can remain open, the memo says.

Buhler said no events in Dawson have had to be cancelled because of the partial closure.

The upcoming Klondike Placer Miners’ Association barbecue will take place in tents outside.

A pancake breakfast on Discovery Day weekend is also being relocated, she said.

In 2009 the former Yukon Party government earmarked $4 million for repairs and improvements to the recreation centre. That was supposed to be spent over five years, but the deal has repeatedly been extended.

According to the Department of Community Services, as of March 31, 2017, there was $189,000 of the $4 million remaining in the funding agreement. The agreement has now been extended to Dec. 31, 2017.

In 2011, just before that year’s election, the Yukon Party held a sod turning for a new recreation centre for Dawson. The plan never officially made it into the party’s election platform.

While in opposition, Premier Sandy Silver criticized the Yukon Party for not following through with that promise after it lost the Klondike riding.

Community Services Minister John Streicker said it’s too soon for the government to say whether it would be willing to build Dawson a new centre.

“There is still potential for life in the current building but it depends on how much repair is required, so that’s what we need to assess. I don’t know what a new building would cost but it’s a lot more than $4 million.”

Streicker said a new recreation centre could qualify for recently announced federal money if that’s what the government and the community decide to do.

According to an engineering report completed in February 2014, the cost of a new curling rink along with renovations to the hockey arena and administration building is estimated to be $12.5 million.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

WSP Memo Partial Closure AMFRC by Yukon News on Scribd