Architect Keith Tetlow and Cowichan Lake Recreation manager Linda Blatchford

Architect Keith Tetlow and Cowichan Lake Recreation manager Linda Blatchford

Cowichan Lake Sports Arena re-opens

After months of setbacks, renovations to the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena are pretty much complete.
“It seems like it’s been a long time coming, because we had some setbacks, as you have with all major projects,” Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission chair Sheila McFarlane said. “I’m anxious to see what the people of the town have to say about it... It’s the nicest looking arena on Vancouver Island.”

  • Feb. 22, 2011 2:00 p.m.

After months of setbacks, renovations to the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena are pretty much complete.

“It seems like it’s been a long time coming, because we had some setbacks, as you have with all major projects,” Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission chair Sheila McFarlane said. “I’m anxious to see what the people of the town have to say about it… It’s the nicest looking arena on Vancouver Island.”

The arena re-opened two weeks ago, in time for the annual Spirit of BC free skating event, Friday, February 11.

Word of the surprise re-opening spread throughout the Cowichan Lake area quickly, resulting in larger than usual crowds showing up to the weekend’s minor hockey games the following couple days.

Earlier on, a partial re-opening, which included the brand new change rooms, took place January 22, in time for the annual Hockey Jamboree.

Grand opening

An official grand re-opening of the arena is to take place Saturday, March 12.

The ceremony, complete with various delegates, will kick off at 10 a.m.

After the ceremony, those in attendance will be put into groups and provided tours of the arena, headed by Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission members.

From noon to 1:50 p.m., there will be free public skating and curling available to anyone interested in participating.

The celebrations will come one day before the 40th anniversary of the arena’s first grand opening, which occurred on March 13, 1971.

“The Cowichan Lake Sports Arena has been an important part of the community for 40 years. With this upgrade, we’re looking forward to the next 40 years,” mayor Ross Forrest said, in a press release.

The project’s scope

The project’s scope is quite broad, with project head John Elzinga listing the following as key renovation items; The replacement of the facility roof, the creation of four new dressing rooms, a warm room area, skate shop, accessible washrooms, large entrance and reception area, meeting room, play area, playschool room, a renovation to the existing concession, and a new concrete surface in the curling rink.

One highlight has been Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission member Rocky Wise’s contributions to the project, in obtaining logs and woodwork from various sources.

“The Youbou Lands Development contributed 11 logging trucks loads, Timberwest contributed three logging truck loads, and Teal Jones contributed a load,” Elzinga wrote in a press release. San Juan Cedar did most of the hauling, alongside Mount Sicker Logging, as well as contributing cedar for the project. Both Cowichan Timber and Karlite Manufacturing donated the cutting of the wood.

The project’s cost

Upgrades to the arena began after a November, 2008, public vote, with citizens in CVRD areas F and I and the Town of Lake Cowichan eligible to vote. The final count was 1,050 in favour, and 962 against the necessary tax increase attached to the arena’s renovations.

“It was the town that let it pass,” McFarlane said, adding that areas F and I residents proved themselves a bit less enthusiastic about the project.

Then, in January of 2010, the project received financial help through a $1 million grant from the Federal Recreational Infrastructure Canada Program.

This grant served to ease the tax burden, with borrowing for the project set at $6.2 million, with an additional $300,000 coming from a 2010 tax requisition, and $100,000 from the facility’s reserve funds.

As a result of the $1 grant, the cost for a $300,000 home-owner will be $86, over a 20-year time-frame, versus a previously projected $107.

After receiving the grant, serious work on the renovations began.

In addition to general construction woes, waiting on the grant is one of a few reasons cited for the delay in the project’s completion.

Remaining on budget

Despite running over half a year late from their initially-projected completion date, the project is still on-budget, at a cost of $7.6 million. As of press time, $7.4 has been spent, with $160,000 put aside for paving and painting improvements to take place this summer.

Remaining on budget was made possible, thanks to a great deal of wiggle room in their initial plans, architect Keith Tetlow said.

Taking into consideration the post-Olympics state of the construction industry, this was a necessity, he said.

Various wish list items were included in the initial budget, with items dashed whenever necessary.

“We still did some,” Tetlow said, of wish list items.

Sound equipment, extra concession equipment, dehumidification controls, lighting, seismic upgrades, multi-purpose room on a spring floor, and individual seating in the warm sitting area have all been included.

“They were originally just going to be bench seats,” Tetlow said.

But, this list of items needs to be seen first-hand in order to take in the project’s scope.

Although the renovated portion of the arena has already opened to the public, in depth tours will take place during the Saturday, March 12, grand opening.

From an architectural standpoint, the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena’s renovations have been a challenge, architect Keith Tetlow said.

“Integrating the new addition into the old facility was a challenge,” he said.

Tetlow, an architect with Victoria-based CEI Architecture and Planning, helped head the project’s design.

While the new section of the arena building is up to current earthquake codes, contractors were only allotted enough funding to partially upgrade the old section.

“We did what we could,” he said. “We improved it from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of current earthquake codes,” he said.

In addition to seismic upgrades, an additional challenge to integrating the new section was making it look at-home with the old section.

Another unique aspect has been the use of 15 truck loads’ worth of wood products.

“Usually, in a facility like this we don’t use wood,” Tetlow said. “It turned out to be really interesting.”

Although building codes dictated that the lower level be made using concrete, the upper floor and roof support could be made of wood, making use of 15 truck loads’ worth of logs Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission member Rocky Wise spearheaded receiving from local logging companies.

The upstairs warm viewing area that overlooks the hockey ice is also unique, Tetlow said.

“It’s getting a lot of comments,” he said. “I don’t know of any other place like it.”

By the March 12 grand opening event, Tetlow expects the renovations to be about 95 per cent complete, with several smaller items completed shortly thereafter.