It will be a hive of activity during the Canada Winter Games — the site of many hellos and goodbyes, of artistic expressions and cultural competitions.
ATCO Place, the monolithic tent on the waterfront near Shipyards Park, was officially opened on Tuesday morning with a ceremonial ribbon cutting outside its back door.
“This is a great moment for us; this is the last major piece of infrastructure to be developed before Games time,” said Games Host Society president Piers McDonald.
Along with the warm fanfare came cold questions of how the 5,000-square-metre uninsulated structure will keep visitors warm during the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies and the seven-day cultural festival that will run in conjunction with the sporting events.
The tent is made from a vinyl polyester blend called polyethylene that’s stretched over steel truss tubing.
The material is much thicker than what you’d see on a typical camping tent, but it isn’t insulated against the cold.
“As you can see, there’s not much of an R-factor in the membrane so we have to take that into account,” said McDonald.
The tent stands more than 19 metres tall at its apex.
Erecting the structure in cold weather was a challenge, said McDonald.
“We recognized the Whitehorse waterfront was a bit of a wind tunnel.”
And so the tent is being weighed down with more than 300,000 kilograms of cement.
The other factor complicating heating plans for the tent has been the unpredictable weather.
“In one week we saw a spread of minus 45 to plus three, so we have to be prepared for just about anything that happens,” said McDonald.
The contract value of the tent and anchoring was $366,000, said Canada Games general manager Chris Morrissey.
The Games organization plans to begin heating the tent at the end of January and will keep it heated until the Games are over.
The cost of renting equipment is estimated to run $80,000 to $100,000.
Additional electric charges and fuel costs will depend on the amount of heat needed, said Morrissey.
“We’re estimating the fuel and electrical costs to run somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 as well,” he said.
So far, the Games organization has contracted a couple of companies to supply the heating hardware, said Morrissey.
“We’ve had several partners come to the table to make sure we’re meeting the heating requests,” said Morrissey.
“We have sourced five heaters from Finning in Edmonton that are electric in nature.
“We have also sourced fuel and propane-based heaters from local rental companies.”
Morrissey would not say which local companies were involved because negotiations are in the process of being finalized.
Finning’s Edmonton office confirmed it shipped five heaters to Whitehorse this week.
Local company MacPherson Rentals confirmed that it’s been in conversation with Games officials about providing heaters for the site.
Although right now it’s only through “word of mouth,” said owner Larry Bragg on Wednesday.
The Games officials shouldn’t be concerned about heating the tent, said Bragg.
It should be kept around minus five degrees Celsius to avoid problems with condensation in the structure.
The tent has the capacity to seat 4,770 visitors.