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Southwest Calgary arenas glide into $13M makeover

The upcoming renovation of two southwest arenas will have one long time Calgary figure skating club doing axels for years to come.

But, they might have to do them around more hockey players.

The Rose Kohn and Jimmie Condon arenas will undergo a $13.2 million renovation through 2021. It’s part of ongoing lifecycle maintenance and upgrades for the Calgary ice rinks.

The arena was first built in 1968 and then a second rink was added in 1983. They were used as a training facility for figure skaters during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.  

That training is what Jaime-Lyn Jackson, director of group programs for the Calalta Figure Skating Club, remembers as a youth.

“I remember watching it on TV as a young one and seeing Brian Orser training in there,” Jackson said.

“It was pretty exciting to be able to come and teach in an arena like that, that had some history.”

Calalta now makes the Rose Kohn / Jimmie Condon arenas its primary home. It’s main office is in the building.

Jackson, a teacher for 10 years with Calalta club, which has been around for more than 60 years, said they’ve learned to adjust recently, both with COVID-19 restrictions and mechanical trouble in the arena.

“I know we had taken quite a hit this year, just based on obviously COVID being an issue for us,” she said.  

“Then also, because we actually had a catastrophic mechanical failure last year in January, and so it impacted our membership, quite substantially.”

According to the city, the arena’s been closed to users since January 2020 because of a brine system failure. The entire facility was closed in March due to COVID-19.

The work being done

As a part of the upgrade, the Jimmie Condon arena side will be expanded to NHL size rink standards. Both arenas are 185 x 85 feet; NHL rinks are 200 feet long.

The city also said that the two refrigeration systems for the arenas will be consolidated into one newer one. They hope to improve energy efficiency by doing so.

Renovations will be made to change rooms, washrooms will be converted to universal, there will be increased spectator seating, upgrades to the front entrance and other maintenance like painting, flooring fixes and accessibility improvements.

The work is expected to start early in 2021 and be complete by November. The city said it will create 72 full-time equivalent jobs.

Jackson said they would have preferred to kept the arena predominantly for figure skating, but she said their organization understands the community need for more ice surfaces.

And, they were consulted as a part of the planning process, she said.  

“I think that (the city) definitely have the community probably, maybe perhaps at the forefront of that decision-making process,” she said.

Impact on Calalta figure skating

Jackson said in their 2018/2019 season, more than 700 members belonged to the club. As of September, they had just 457.

“We took a significant hit,” Jackson said.

“We’d already had a tumultuous 2020 (brine failure) even before the COVID situation.”

She said it’s made it difficult to run programming. Especially their grassroots content. That’s where the biggest impact has been felt. They’ve been able to move skaters around to different arenas in the city.

But, ice time is a premium in Calgary.

Jackson said they do have a replacement times booked across the city. It’s easier for the more established skaters to bounce around the city for training.

“I would say it’s pretty much impossible for us to run our grassroots programming,” she said.

“As you can imagine, trying to community with 200 families who skate once a week to go to different locations isn’t feasible.”

The club is looking at the renovation as a silver lining to all of this. Yes, it would have been good to have the work done while they’re shut out by COVID-19, but in the end, Jackson said it’s all going to be worth it.

“We’re very happy to have a new facility to have access to. As long as everything stays in place the way that it is, we’ll continue to use it as much as possible and grow our programs again,” she said.

“Everybody’s looking towards the future right now. That’s all you can do.”