Skip to content

After prolonged delays, Carmacks arena will finally open

Grand opening planned for March 11

The newly completed Carmacks arena will officially open on March 11.

The opening ceremony is organized by the Village of Carmacks and the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation.

Premier Ranj Pillai, Yukon MP Brendan Handley, Mayo-Tatchun MLA Jeremy Harper, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon, Yukon NDP Leader Kate White and Carmacks Mayor Lee Bodie will be attending, Matthew Cybulski, Carmacks’ recreation director, said in a statement.

Activities planned for the opening ceremony include lunch, facility tours, unveiling of “Jumpstart changeroom” and “Love To Skate” library, John Chabot Native All-Star Hockey Game and youth hockey camp, skating games and demonstration programs.

The new indoor arena is designed to provide a key active recreation and enhanced community space, accommodating community functions, including indoor hockey, curling tournaments, broomball tournaments and other seasonal activities.

The building also features well-insulated metal panels that will stabilize the exterior temperatures in winter when the weather drops below -50 C.

The new 2,500-square metre facility was approved in 2018 with $10.5 million in funding from the federal government. The Yukon government also approved $6 million in funding for the project.

The project was a long time coming. Awarded to Scott Design Build in 2018, the facility was initially scheduled to be completed in November 2020.

In February 2021, the Yukon government sued the company for $17.3 million for failing to complete the project. The lawsuit alleged failure to meet deadlines, not making necessary preparations and replacing subcontractors without permission.

Two months later, the company filed a counterclaim, denying allegations it breached the contract and claimed the Yukon government failed to pay for work done. The construction company is seeking $7.5 million to recover costs.

The remainder of the project was eventually awarded to Whiddon Construction out of Alberta.

“This company took on the half-finished project and did a remarkable job of finishing the structure,” said Bodie. “They encountered a few obstacles along the way because of supply chain issues which delayed the project even longer. But all that is behind us and we are moving forward with the grand opening.”

After safety concerns prompted the closure of the village’s former skating rink in 2014, Carmacks council approached the government for a new facility for the community.

“We did so because our insurance company would no longer insure the facility,” Bodie said. “The cause of the ground shifts was determined to be the permafrost melting underneath the rink, causing the steel girders to buckle. The former curling rink was situated beside the skating rink and it, too, suffered from the same fate. The whole surface of the curling rink sunk up to 10 feet in places.”

Bodie arrived in Carmacks in 2004 when the outdoor skating rink, with its roof held up by steel girders, was already in what he described as a “deplorable” condition.

“I say deplorable because the ice surface was badly deformed by the ground shifting on all sides. It was unusable at times as the ground shifts would become so bad the ice surface could not be leveled,” he said. “Whole sections near center ice would be barren of ice while the side would have more ice than necessary.”

The facility was designed by Koybayashi and Zedda, a local Whitehorse company.

Bodie said the concept was beautiful. “It took about a year to finalize the design,” he said. “We held a celebration five years ago with the community to unveil the design. An artificial ice surface with a CO2 system was going to be a reality for us. We specifically requested no ammonia-based systems because of the volatility and safety concerns of ammonia.”

Before the construction of the new facility, Bodie said they told the government they wanted “what other communities have — an indoor rink with artificial ice and a facility that could be used as a skating rink and a curling rink.”

Despite the initial setbacks, Bodie is excited with the new project for his community. He said it’s going to be a busy weekend in the community with a lot of people smiling for good reasons.

“The community is looking forward to the new building with great anticipation. It’s been over 10 years since anyone has been able to skate in our rink,” he said. “We’re looking forward to having our community use the facility and it will save many of them day trips and gas money to drive to town to practise or partake in a tournament.”

As well as being a boom to local recreation, Bodie said the entire business community of Carmacks will reap benefits from the new arena.

“We plan on holding hockey tournaments as well as curling bonspiels which will bring many visitors to town,” he said. “Local businesses are coming forward to assist with the grand opening by donating food to the opening supper as well as some staff to help with the organizing of the meals and serving.”

Bodie said during the summer months when there is no ice, the arena can accommodate roller skating and floor hockey to keep residents active.

In a March 7 statement, the Carmacks Development Association (CDC) said it is excited about the opening of the facility because “it will open doors to sharing our good fortune with other communities by way of tournaments and bonspiels, thereby strengthening the local economy.”

Ronald Gartshore, chief executive of CDC, said the organization, has dedicated much of its focus on building a strong vibrant community.

“With this new asset to Carmacks, we want to make sure our athletes have all the support they need,” he said. “CDC will take a leadership role to assist with the development of sponsorship packages for our sports teams starting with the newly formed Carmacks Minor Hockey Association (CMHA). We plan to invite our many partners to join us on these opportunities and make a real difference for our community.”

Little Salmon First Nation Chief Nicole Tom said the opening of the Carmacks arena is a gift.

“We are so happy to have a facility that will foster the well-being of our community and invest in our future. A beautiful facility full of potential, hopes and dreams,” she said.

Tom said the new project “means our citizens will have the opportunity to participate in physical, mental, emotional healing. The stats are there — they show high levels of success when individuals have access to sports and recreation.”

Tom said the First Nation partners and collaborates with Carmacks village including having open and honest conversations and joint council meetings.

“We work together with the understanding that the citizens of Carmacks are at the forefront of our decisions,” she said.

Without government support, Bodie said, the new project wouldn’t have been a success.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the Government of Canada and the Yukon government for building this awesome facility for the Village of Carmacks.”

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
Read more