Repairs needed - The Francis Rink’s skating surface, seen here in a file photo from the 2019-20 season, will not operate this year due to a structural issue with the roof beams. Repairs for the facility are expected to be over $300,000.

Skating portion of local arena shuttered for 2023-24 after structural issues found

An engineering inspection of roof beams at the Francis Skating and Curling Rink has forced the closure of the facility’s skating arena for the 2023-24 season.
An engineer’s report has indicated the cost of repairs could range from $300,000 to $380,000. The variance in costs is dependent on how the roof is repaired, Francis Community Recreational Co-operative secretary Lali Klein added.
“We don’t have enough time to make the repairs in order to get our ice in,” Klein said. “We just noticed it in the spring that something was looking a bit different, so as a board, we decided to have an engineer look at it. It’s a fairly large beam, and obviously structural in nature. It seemed to be something beyond what you could fix yourself and be confident it could be properly done.”
The engineer’s report was received in late August identifying the repairs that would enable the facility to open safely. While the work could be completed in approximately two months, Klein noted the arena board will need time to raise the required funds. The arena board is also investigating whether it is possible to reduce costs with donated materials and support from local contractors.
“Our rink is an old airplane hangar that was used in Mossbank,” Klein said. “It’s been in town here for 65 years and I think it was around 30 years old when it got here. It’s a pretty old structure and has a stepped roof on it.”
It is that stepped roof which causes the cost differential in repair options. Klein said snow collected at the east end of the facility, and it was that snow load on the roof which caused damage and cracked one of the roof beams. The repairs might be able to be completed in phases, with the beam repair and removal of the stepped roof necessary to open the facility. Reinforcement of some of the walls was also recommended if possible. A construction committee made of rink board members has been struck to examine the options.
Klein added that the local skating club has secured ice time in Sedley, while adult recreational hockey ice slots will likely be spread out among arenas in several neighbouring communities.
The curling rink has not been affected by the facility closure, leaving area rock throwers free to sweep their winter away. A portion of the upstairs area overlooking the curling rink, occasionally used by the local dance club, can also continue to be used.
Klein said area residents have already started floating ideas for fundraisers and pledging funds for the necessary renovations.
A community meeting Oct. 29 regarding the issue generated approximately $42,000 in pledges from those in attendance. Discussions with Francis town council about supporting the arena are also anticipated.
“We will be looking for government grants, if some are appropriate for this purpose,” Klein said. “We are hoping to have some events to raise some money. Some artists have reached out so there could be a concert in the future. Nothing is set in stone yet. We are just looking at the options on fundraising right now. The support from the people in town has been overwhelming.”

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