The Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre in Dawson City will be open again after being closed for more than a month over concerns about its structure and melting permafrost. (Chris Windeyer/ Yukon News)

Dawson’s recreation centre set to re-open

Building doesn’t meet new earthquake standards but is otherwise stable, report says

Dawson City’s recreation centre will be open again after parts of the complex were closed for more than a month over concerns about its structure and the possibility of melting permafrost.

Council decided to open closed sections of Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre, including the hockey and curling rinks, after an engineering report concluded “there are no concerns of the superstructure capacity” to handle the size and weight of the complex.

Work on the ice is beginning this month with a plan to be open to the public sometime in October, said Dawson’s Mayor Wayne Potoroka

The decision to open the building comes despite the engineer’s report pointing out that the old building does not meet the 2015 building code standards for earthquakes.

Dawson’s mayor Wayne Potoroka estimates that the superstructure of the community’s ice rink was built sometime in the 1970s.

“Even though this particular structure doesn’t meet the standards of today, given the standards were only put together in 2015 it’s not something we really could have expected,” he said.

“In fact it’s probably not something we can expect in most buildings.”

Potoroka said council considered all the information it had before deciding to open the building. He said he thinks an earthquake powerful enough to bring down the building is unlikely.

“You really have to ask yourself, what’s the likelihood we’re going to get an earthquake in this area that might have the intensity to bring that building down?” he said. “Quite frankly, if it does come, I’m not sure the arena’s the only building I’d be worried about.”

Potoroka said council asked what magnitude of earthquake would be required to cause serious problems but “we never really did get a response back” from the engineer.

Both the mayor and the engineer who completed the report pointed out that other buildings in the territory have stayed open even after seismic deficiencies are found.

“It is worth mentioning there are many schools both in B.C. and Yukon that are seismically deficient and are remaining occupied while waiting for upgrades within a reasonable period of time,” engineer Kitty Leung wrote in her report.

Keeping the building closed until it could meet 2015 standards likely would have meant closing it forever, the mayor said.

“I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be (to bring it up to standard) and I certainly can’t even start to tell you where we’d find it.”

Not having the recreation centre would be detrimental to the community, he said.

Potoroka said the town plans on coming up with ways to make the building safer in the unlikely event of a major earthquake. Engineers will be coming up with ideas, as well as Dawson’s fire chief.

That could include installing more supports to improve the building’s ability to withstand the earth moving, the mayor said.

Leung’s report mentions upgrades to the concrete slabs as well as drilling supports into the bedrock.

Putting ice in the arena will also provide stability to the soil, Potoroka said.

Dawson has been talking about needing improvements to its recreation centre for years.

In 2014, an engineering report estimated a new curling rink along with renovations to the hockey arena and administration building would cost about $12.5 million.

Potoroka said he has conversations with the territorial government about repairing the building or building a new one at every opportunity. But he acknowledged there isn’t an infinite amount of money available.

“It is on our list. Every Yukon community has a list of infrastructure asks and requirements, ours is water,” he said.

“We need a new water plant, and that’s going to trump most things I’m sure.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com