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Leo ice rink shut down for good

In a "devastating" blow to the Fort Town, an ammonia leak has forced the immediate closure of the Leo Boivin Community Centre's ice surface.

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PRESCOTT – The town has permanently closed the Leo Boivin Community Centre as an ice arena after an ammonia leak was discovered in the 50-year-old facility’s ice-making plant.

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On what Mayor Brett Todd called a “devastating day” for Prescott, town council met in an emergency session on Tuesday to formally decommission the Leo’s ice plant for good.

Council had no other choice. A pressure test of the ammonia-carrying pipes under the arena’s floor indicated that there was a leak in the system. Public Works director Dan Beattie said the leak was somewhere under the floor of the arena but there was no way of telling where. Thus there is no way of repairing the leak, he told a glum-faced council.

But even if the leak could be found, the town’s contractor, CIMCO Refrigeration, won’t start up the ice plant because of safety concerns, Beattie said. Once one leak is found, there is no way of knowing when the aging pipes might spring another leak, the contractor told the town.

In a report received by council, CIMCO recommended that the plant be decommissioned because of “safety concerns for users, operators, suppliers and neighbours of the arena.”
CIMCO said there is a danger of a major ammonia leak given the quantity of the gas in the system and a “known existing and a history of failures.”

The Leo has a totally ammonia-based ice plant, one of only two in Canada. The other one is in Goderich, Ont.

Last week, that town shut its Goderich Memorial Arena, which is 17 years older than the Leo Boivin, because of the danger of ammonia leaks.

The fear of ammonia leaks in arenas was heightened by the deaths of three people in Fernie, B.C. last October.

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The recent release of the report into the investigation of the Fernie deaths, coupled with the Goderich closure last week, prompted CIMCO to request the pressure test in Prescott before ice was put in for the season.

The days of the Leo were already numbered after mold was discovered in the building last winter.

Engineers recommended that the town needs a new arena, and town council began making plans to replace it in three to five years.

In the meantime, however, the town approved $500,000 of renovations to the Leo to keep it open until a new one could be built. Those renovations, which included a new roof and changes to the railings and seating area, were completed this summer.

Todd said that money was not lost because the Leo will remain open as a community centre until the new arena is built – it just won’t have ice. The renovations were structural repairs separate from the ice-making plant, he said.

Coun. Leanne Burton said the closure of the Leo is sad for the town, but she and other councillors praised town staff for acting quickly before anybody was hurt.

Beattie said arena staff constantly monitors the pressure in the cooling system to watch for leaks. So even if the ice plant had been fired up – ice-making was scheduled to start Tuesday – the leak would have been detected quickly and the plant shut down.

Todd said the ice-plant closure will accelerate the town’s plans to build a new arena, which he predicted could be built in 24 to 30 months.

In the meantime, the town will notify its hockey league and figure-skating club that there is no ice.

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