Staff at the Alberni Valley Multiplex place sponsor logos in the new ice in preparation for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ BCHL game on Nov. 30. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF PORT ALBERNI

Staff at the Alberni Valley Multiplex place sponsor logos in the new ice in preparation for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ BCHL game on Nov. 30. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF PORT ALBERNI

EDITORIAL: City of Port Alberni deserves kudos for its response to Multiplex ammonia leak

Hockey players, parents and fans breathed a collective sigh of relief…

Multitudes of hockey players, parents and fans breathed a collective sigh of relief on Friday, Nov. 22 when Technical Safety BC finally gave the City of Port Alberni the go-ahead to re-open the AV Multiplex and begin making ice on the city’s only ice rinks.

The Multiplex had been closed since Nov. 6 after Multiplex staff discovered a low-level ammonia leak from the ice refrigeration plant, which had only been installed in April. The city made the decision to close the facility before TSBC could order a closure.

We must give praise where praise is due: City of Port Alberni staff worked virtually around the clock to find out what happened, make repairs, and satisfy every condition TSBC put on its safety order so it would allow the facility to re-open. The city had to deal with losing its ice in the busiest time of the year.

They have responded by extending staff shifts and adding shifts and workers to make ice as fast as possible.

The city also announced it will go ahead with Winter Wonderland, a month of public skating events that takes over the Coulson Rink side of the Multiplex. We understand this decision has been unpopular with some of the user groups, who felt the city should use the extra weeks in December to help make up for missed ice time—hockey and figure skating practices and games.

Winter Wonderland, on the other hand, attracts close to 9,000 people every year—up to 4,200 just for the ‘everyone welcome’ skates. The event, which sees the Coulson Rink decorated with real Christmas trees and hundreds of twinkling lights, offers a chance for people who would otherwise never use the Multiplex in winter to enjoy public skating and a special ambience.

Winter Wonderland is a valuable winter event, and we agree with the city’s decision to go ahead with it.

We commend the Multiplex’s user groups and the incredible patience they showed while the city dealt with an unexpected shutdown in the peak winter season. Other communities on Vancouver Island, especially Parksville, made ice time available for hockey teams, and Campbell River and Parksville hosted Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ home games on two occasions.

This was a horrible situation for recreation in the Alberni Valley, but everyone made the best of it.

The ice is well on its way to being ready for hockey at the end of the week. We can’t wait.

—Alberni Valley News