The River East Royal Knights' castle has been seized for the upcoming hockey season by a new opponent: mould.
The Royal Knights, whose home rink is the Terry Sawchuk Memorial Arena, has been told by the City of Winnipeg the structure will be closed immediately and into next year because of mould in the facility and the need to remove it.
"It's a disaster," team president and general manager Barry Bonni said. "It will be like every game is an away game."
Bonni, whose Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League team plays up to 23 home games a season, said he only found out about the length of the closure Friday.
"I've known for a few weeks it could be closed until the middle of September," he said. "Then, in the last week, a couple of rink attendants said they heard it will be closed until January. But today I got a call from (city Coun.) Jeff Browaty and he said the whole season.
"I asked him: will they have one guy with a toothbrush cleaning it? Why is it taking so long?"
The problem, said Glen Stefanyshen, City of Winnipeg superintendent of building and asset operation, is the mould remediation was not budgeted, and it will take time to put out a tender before making the final decision how to deal with the problem.
"During some maintenance, including removing the reflective ceiling, it was discovered there was mould on the wood surface of the ceiling. We did testing — it was deemed at the time of testing not harmful — (but) 25 to 30 per cent of the surface had mould on it.
"We're erring on the side of caution (to remove the mould)."
Stefanyshen said the city has already checked other similarly constructed arenas. It determined the Charlie Gardiner facility has no mould issues, but Century and Billy Mosienko arenas do. Environmental consultants have told the city the buildings are "safe, if monthly measurements are taken to monitor the situation."
Peter de Graaf, city manager of community development and recreation, said officials will now have to take a look at re-doing ice allocations for the major users of Winnipeg's other city-run 11 arenas to find room for the groups displaced by the Terry Sawchuk closure. Besides the Royal Knights, minor hockey and ringette teams use the arena, as well as skating teams and lessons.
De Graaf said the Terry Sawchuk rink has 1,200 hours of ice booked each year officials will try to find space for elsewhere.
"We'll look at all the options," he said. "Last year, we were at 85 per cent of capacity in prime-time hours, so there is 15 per cent capacity in prime-time hours (available)."
Bonni said the Royal Knights will not only have to find a place to put all of their equipment this season, but the closure is also displacing their office from the arena.
"Time will tell how if will affect us fan-wise," he said. "I've been running this hockey club for 38 years and I've never had this happen before."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.