In late November, winter sports are finally starting up, but the mild conditions have kept some local skaters from lacing up.
The Prince George Outdoor Ice Oval still taunts hopeful skaters with its ‘closed’ sign due to a lack of refrigeration resources. Volunteer Coordinator with the Outdoor Ice Oval Society, Lyle Dickieson says that without a refrigeration system, crews need to consider their options. “We aim to get ice in by December 1st and it usually takes us a couple weeks to get us going so we’re already a week behind and probably another week until we get some cold going.”
The lack of ice is especially felt by the PG Blizzards Speed Skating Club. President of the club, Kari Rae says she doesn’t expect her skaters to be able to train on the outdoor oval until mid-December. “Provincials are January 21st and the Canadian National meet is the fourth of February so the window is very small.”
Instead, Rae said that many local skaters have to drive more than four hours north to Fort St. John or travel to Calgary. Nearly two years ago, BC Speed Skating was unable to hold speed skating events in Prince George for the Canada Winter Games. “We’re not comfortable doing it without refrigeration and if we had refrigeration we could host local events, provincial events, regional events, and national events,” Rae said.
Council approved a request for a 3.5 million dollars to 4.5 million dollars refrigeration system in September. It has now been added to the unfunded list for the 2018 five year capital plan. The refrigeration plant is expected to be installed adjacent to the Kin Centre or on the west side of the ice oval. The hope is for four to five months of winter skating at a maximum annual operational cost of 150 thousand dollars.
The Outdoor Ice Oval Society is now working on a 500 thousand dollar fundraising initiative. If all goes to planned the facility could be built in the summer of 2018. Dickieson said the aim to make the outdoor oval a year-round site for recreation. “If we get a refrigerated surface it means it will be concrete and so all summer long we can be open for people roller-blading, roller skating, all roller sports, wheelchairs, you name it and we could give it a try.”