St. James Civic Centre reopening after two years of renovations, construction delays
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After closing for more than two years, the St. James Civic Centre will finally reopen in September, following construction delays that kept it shuttered about a year longer than expected.
The facility, which features an indoor hockey arena, swimming pool, auditorium, weight room and other spaces, has been closed to allow a major renewal project since April 1, 2020. Originally expected to reopen in June 2021, it’s now slated to welcome back most users on Sept. 6, with the arena following later that month, said St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham.
The councillor blamed the delays on alleged contractor errors.
“It’s delayed primarily related to two (silica) dust-release events, where the contractors… didn’t have the proper barriers in place and the dust went through the whole facility. So the brand new electrical/mechanical systems had to be cleaned. That happened twice, so the city will be seeking financial recovery from the contractor for the costs associated with this,” said Gillingham.
In an emailed statement, city spokesman Kalen Qually said silica dust is considered a “a workplace health and safety hazard,” which is why the work was halted. He said the delay did result in extra costs, which the city is recovering from the contractor.
Gillingham acknowledged that many recreation programs were forced to move for an extended period due to the delays, including some that shifted to the St. James Assiniboia Centennial Pool, about five kilometres away.
“I share the frustration that some of the Civic Centre users have expressed in the delays to get the (facility) reopened,” he said.
The St. James Junior Canucks Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League team was one of the displaced groups during the extended closure.
“You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. The hardest part for us was that it was originally supposed to be (shorter), and then it was two years. They just kept pushing it back.… It’s so discouraging when you are hoping to get in by a certain time and then it gets pushed back,” said Justin Steeves, the Canucks’ president.
“For two full seasons, we’ve been displaced,” he added, noting the team expects to be able to practise at its renovated home by Sept. 26.
Steeves stressed staff went above and beyond to provide enough space and storage to accommodate the team at Keith Bodley arena, which served as the Canucks’ temporary home. Unfortunately, the club still had to share a limited space with other teams, frequently moving equipment and supplies between cars, the rink, homes and garages to make that work, he said.
During a championship-winning playoff run last spring, the arena also proved too small for the number of fans wanting to attend games, leading the Canucks to practice at Keith Bodley and play games at the Bell MTS Iceplex.
“As good as we had it and as good as people were to us, we are extremely thrilled and excited to be back at home. We have our own room, the boys can leave their stuff and air it out in their lockers,” said Steeves.
He noted the extended closure cost the whole area much-needed indoor ice, which had a “ripple effect,” that limited practice options for many teams, while other recreation groups will also be anxious to return to the Civic Centre.
“It’s not just hockey. There’s so many people in the community that use that facility. My kids took swimming lessons there. You (also) have the rec centre and the gym,” said Steeves.
“It’s not just hockey. There’s so many people in the community that use that facility. My kids took swimming lessons there. You (also) have the rec centre and the gym.” – Justin Steeves
The $10-million renewal and renovation project for the building, which was constructed in 1967, updated the facility’s envelope, arena slab and lighting, as well as electrical and mechanical systems.
“Many of the facility systems are at the end of their service life,” Geoff Patton, the city’s director of assets and project management, told council’s finance committee in February.
Patton said the upgrade is also expected to reduce the facility’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 per cent.
Meanwhile, a $14-million expansion of the Civic Centre, which is in the design phase, will add a new multi-purpose program area, meeting rooms and administrative space for the St. James Assiniboia 55+ Centre.
Gillingham said the combined results from the two projects will mark a major improvement in recreation for the area, notwithstanding the wait.
“Even though there have been delays in this project, it’s very good news for the people of St. James and west Winnipeg,” he said.
Qually said that expansion is still in the “very early” planning stages, with a design contract just recently awarded.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.