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Safer ice-making unit part of proposed arena makeover

Tara Jeffrey St. Clair Township officials are hoping the Moore Sports Complex’s ageing refrigeration system will help make the case for a multi-million dollar arena makeover.
The Moore Sports Complex in Mooretown.Journal Photo
The Moore Sports Complex in Mooretown. Journal Photo

Tara Jeffrey

St. Clair Township officials are hoping the Moore Sports Complex’s ageing refrigeration system will help make the case for a multi-million dollar arena makeover.

“We think we have a good case because of our existing freezing plant and refrigeration system,” township CAO John Rodey said of the 50-year-old Moore Sports Complex. The arena is the last in Ontario still operating with a direct expansion ammonia cooling system.

The high-risk classification means the ammonia circulates in piping embedded directly in the rink floor, posing a greater potential for leaks.

The township is applying for government funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a cost-shared program between the federal government, provinces and territories, municipalities and other recipients.

The community is vying for a piece of $30 billion to be doled

out for community, culture and recreation projects.

“We are looking at what we would call a major renovation of the facility,” said Rodey, noting the recent launch of the Moore Sports Complex Renewal Committee. If funding is approved, the early cost estimates could be around $35 million, Rodey said, adding construction would occur in phases, ideally, over a two-year-period.

The fundraising committee will also be reaching out to residents and local industry, to help contribute, along with money from the municipality, he added.

Plans include construction of a new NHL-sized rink and the

refurbishing of what’s known currently as ‘Rink 1.’ The facility’s second rink (Rink 2) would be converted to a gymnasium/health club. Renovations to the pool area would also be included.

“And then we’d switch everything over to the new refrigeration system,” he said.

The Journal first reported last October the arena was the last in Ontario with a potentially hazardous direct ammonia system.

An investigation also revealed an unknown number of people,

including children, were exposed to ammonia during a gas leak at the complex on Sept. 24, 2013.

Arenas across Canada have been under scrutiny since three men died from an ammonia leak at a Fernie, British Columbia rink in 2017.

Rinks in Goderich and Prescott — home to the two other remaining direct-ammonia systems in Ontario — both closed in 2018 due to ammonia leak concerns.

Last November, officials discovered the Mooretown facility had been incorrectly registered with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority as an indirect system. That came from a September report to council by director of community services Kendall Lindsay.

"In November of 2018 late on a Sunday night I received a call from our TSSA representative needing to verify that we were a In-Direct system which we are not," noted the report. "At that time he told me that we would have to lock out a compressor to get down to 100 horse power."

Lindsay could not be reached for comment, but a TSSA media official confirmed that in December 2018, one of the three compressors on site was locked out and sealed, reducing the plant’s operating power.

“Obviously, they’ll be keeping an eye on it, more than they did in the past,” Rodey said.

The complex houses three compressors — two, 50-horsepower and one 30-horsepower unit. In order two run all three, there needs to be a B-ticket operator on site — someone certified to run plants over 200 horsepower.

Rodey confirmed that some, but not all staff at the complex are B-ticket certified.

“If we don’t have someone with a B ticket on, we have to drop out one of our compressors and operate with a lower horsepower.”

That poses an issue in warmer months, when the two compressors aren’t able to keep the ice cold enough, he said.

“But once we get into October and November, that won’t be an issue.”

In the meantime, the arena’s refrigeration contractor, Black & McDonald, recommended an independent consultant do an inspection, Rodey said.

“They came in to look at the lines to make sure there weren’t any issues, and they all passed,” he said.

“We believe this is a safe situation for the time being and we are continuing on."

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