The Greater Vernon Museum & Archives is collecting photos and stories about the beloved building, which has closed its doors after 80 years
MorningStar Newspaper Feb. 7, 2018 11:30 a.m.
With the Civic Arena closing its doors after 80 years, the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives (GVMA) thought this would be a good opportunity to open up the photo data base to look at the many activities and changes that have taken place in this historic building.
The Vernon Civic Arena was completed in 1938 after the old arena was deemed unsafe to occupy in 1935 by the city engineer, A. E. East.
"Civic arena inspector refuses to permit play in old rink this winter - local teams will be without a home. Sherwood states expenditure of further money is not warranted at present," reported the Vernon News.
Despite being in the midst of the Great Depression, citizens voted yes in two separate bylaw referendums, in order to borrow the money to build the arena.
Work began in 1937 and used relief workers. According to a 1958 report written by Jack Ferguson, "each team of men worked a week, then relinquished their job so that others could have work." A noteworthy fact about the construction, according to Ferguson, was that "Charlie Hamilton of Vancouver drafted the plans using his new idea of laminated arches, thus doing away with supporting beams."
The original building had a facade on the front and back that made the structure look larger than it actually was. By the '50s the facade was gone and the building had more of a traditional arena shape for the remainder of its days. Over the past 80 years, the arena has played host to countless hockey games, ice dances, and community skates, but it also acted as a community centre, where banquets, concerts, dances, exhibitions, and even canoe jousting occurred within the building.
The Civic Arena was a central fixture in the life of Vernon for 80 years. However, just because the building is to be torn down does not mean that the stories and memories have to disappear. The GVMA is dedicated to preserving as many stories about Vernon as possible, including this old arena. That includes everything from the great hockey rivalries to the story of the first kiss in the bleachers during a dance.
The GVMA is collecting photographs and stories about the beloved building. Contact the museum at 250-542-3142 if you have something to share.
Speaking of changes, the GVMA has recently made changes to its admission policy. Effective Jan. 1, the museum is charging an admission fee: adults $5; students/seniors $3; children (under 12) $2; family $10 (two adults and up to two children). As always, there is no charge to talk to our collection staff or visit the archives.
Annual museum memberships are also a great value and include free admission among a host of other benefits. Membership rates are $15 for students, $25 seniors, $30 individuals, and $40 families (two adults and up to two children).
The Vernon Vipers returned to the Civic Arena from their current home Kal Tire Place, to play the Prince George Spruce Kings at Civic Arena, January 6, 2018. This game was to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first game ever played in the Civic Arena, January 6, 1938, an exhibition contest between the Vancouver Lions and the Spokane Clippers.
The Regional District of North Okanagan commissioned the Civic Arena Engineering Assessment Report in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the facility. The report concluded that at almost 80 years of age, many of the facility's operating systems are deteriorating and at risk of imminent failure, and the cost for the required renovations to keep the Civic Arena functional for five years would be $5.6 million. To keep it operational for 10 years with a 179' x 79' size sheet of ice would cost approximately $10.78 million. To upgrade the arena to include a regulation-size 200' x 85' sheet of ice would require $13.88 million. Annual operating costs for the Civic Arena in 2016 are budgeted for $196,706.
October 9, 2018
A candidate running for Vernon Council in the upcoming civic election, Mr. David Deshane, recently posted a video on Facebook making a number of false and incorrect statements related to the Civic Arena. The City of Vernon would like to correct the misinformation.
The RDNO, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and Vernon Council followed the lengthy and thorough process to carefully assess the condition of the Civic Arena and the practical decision to move forward with a replacement arena.
Mr. Deshane stated, we were misled about tearing down of Civic Arena, and that they (presumably referencing Council) paid a City Councillor to write a nearly fictitious report condemning the Civic. Coincidently, that same architectural firm received the contract for the new replacement arena. Further, Mr. Deshane stated the public was intentionally mislead to clear the path for the new arena.
Neither Vernon City Council nor the Regional District of North Okanagan mislead the public about the aging condition of the Civic Arena and practical need to replace a building at the end of its useful lifecycle with a modern, efficient facility designed to serve our community and many user groups. Over eight years there have been many studies directed, commissioned and reported in public meetings of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (Vernon, Coldstream, Electoral Areas B&C), the Board of Directors of RDNO and Vernon Council.
In January 2014, the RDNO retained Bruce Carscadden Architect Inc. (BCA) and their team of structural, mechanical, electrical and refrigeration engineering consultants to conduct a comprehensive architectural and engineering review and assessment of the Vernon Civic Arena.
The detailed Carscadden Architect Inc. report submitted to GVAC in March 2014, recommended a short term Life Safety and Maintenance investment of $100,000, and further investments over two to five years in the order of $5 to 6 million and numerous recommended actions to extend the useful life beyond five years. Due to the reported condition of the building and the significant investment necessary to maintain the basic ice function the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee recommended that the Civic Arena be decommissioned as an ice facility.
This initiated the process to replace the Civic Arena. A referendum to borrow $13,000,000 was passed by electors in November 2015.
A competitive bid process was initiated in February 2016 to secure a qualified architect to design and manage construction of a replacement arena. Four skilled firms submitted responses to the Request for Proposals. MQN Architects (MQN) was the successful firm selected through a rigorous evaluation process.
Councillor Brian Quiring is a principal in MQN and has consistently publicly declared his interest in MQN, advised Council in public meetings and has excused himself from any related decision-making. MQN has guided a highly successful process to deliver Kal Tire North, the replacement arena, on time and within budget.
Council extensively debated the future use of the Civic Arena, including use as an enclosed shell once the ice surface was removed. Of note, the ice pad has heaved and fractured and has not been used for dry pad sports since 2012. Council directed that Bourcet Engineering and LTA Consultants Inc. be engaged to assess potential use as a shell and determine costs necessary to convert the structure.
Rene Bourcet, P.Eng. reported renovating and repairing the Civic Arena, in my professional opinion, does not make economic sense. Upgrading requires two new wall systems to be added along with extensive repairs to the foundation and roof system. The cost would be much higher than new construction. LTA Consultants Inc. was engaged to estimate probable costs to develop the Civic Arena as a shelled building ready for redevelopment.
LTA Consultants stated our opinion of probable costs estimate develops a total project cost in the range of $11,000,000 to $12,000,000 to undertake the structural repair work and develop the building to an open shelled space, ready for interior improvements and fit-out work. Further, LTA Consultants stated in comparison, it is our opinion that the equivalent costs of a new modern purpose built shelled space, similar to the Civic Arena, or other recreational facilities, would cost in the $8,000,000 to $9,000,000 range.
Based on the professional opinions of independent qualified consultants, Council decided the practical, cost effective direction was to demolish the 80 year old Civic Arena.
These reports, and the discussions of Council, were all held in open public meetings through to November 2017.