THUNDER BAY — With a replacement facility for Fort William Gardens shelved, the federal and municipal governments have stepped up with $3 million to upgrade the 72-year-old structure.
Ottawa will chip in $2.3 million for the project, which will include the replacement of the arena’s dressing rooms and washroom facilities, new energy efficient doors windows and a new roof, and a revamp to the ice-making process to allow for the storage of heat producing during ice making to help heat the building and melt excess snow.
Ventilation systems will also be upgraded in the building’s offices, the cooling tower and condensing unit will be replaced, and the ticket window, entrance and concession areas will be retrofitted to make it more accessible for patrons with mobility issues.
MP Marcus Powlowski (Liberal, Thunder Bay–Rainy River) said the Gardens is one of Thunder Bay’s cultural centres, counting a Moscow Dynamo game against the Thunder Bay Twins and a Bob Dylan concert as two of his fondest memories attending events at the rink.
“This place is in pretty good shape,” Powlowski said. “You just look around. You don’t build things like this anymore. You build things that fall apart in five or 10 years. This is built to be able to be here for a lot of years, but it takes money to keep it up, especially to make it more energy efficient.”
Older buildings, like the Gardens, are often not very energy-efficient, Powlowski added, leading to exorbitant heating costs.
“It’s important to ensure for coming generations, that future people in Thunder Bay form and develop their own memories here like those of us in past generations,” he said.
The city earlier this year announced a $1.4-million plan to upgrade the roof and create energy efficiencies inside and outside the building, and last year announced a $3-million plan, which included the money proposed in June, that included the replacement of doors and windows and the modernization of the ice plant, including in Wednesday’s funding announcement.
Acting mayor Dominic Pasqualino said Fort William Gardens is a lot like an old Buick — a classic car worth spending a little money on to upkeep, and lot more affordable than spending $50,000 or $60,000 for a brand-new vehicle.
“It’s really important to make sure we put the money into maintenance. I think the maintenance is a really important thing to do and some of these old structures have some really good things about them,” Pasqualino said.
“Maybe the floors wouldn’t have been as heavy duty as they would be now, for example.”
Work is ongoing on improvements to the Gardens’ outer envelope.