What’s with closures at Fort Smith’s arena, pool, and curling rink?


Closures due to ongoing maintenance and staffing issues are causing delays in opening Fort Smith’s arena and curling rink this winter – and in keeping the pool open during the day.

The ongoing issues caused the town to publish a detailed explanation in mid-October, writing, “The Town believes it’s in the best interest of everyone if we are transparent in the setbacks and reasons for delay relating to these two community centres.”

The pool closures are somewhat straightforward – the staff are in high school, so with school starting again some daytime programs had to be cancelled or postponed.

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“The next national lifeguard training will occur in November, at which point, if participants are successful in completing and meeting the safety standards, we will have lifeguards ready to work at the pool right away,” the town wrote.

“While we greatly appreciate all the high school students applying, what we don’t want to do is take away from the high school experience. This means that we try to minimize the affect of working too much during their high school years.”

There are no planned pool shutdowns over the winter, given the number of closures over the last two years.

The arena and curling club are a bit more complicated. At the end of last winter, a technician noted the compressors and the ice plant needed parts replaced. Those parts wouldn’t arrive until the end of summer.

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A little later, another problem was identified – the fire suppression system in the arena wasn’t working properly and the town’s insurance company told them all public and staff access to the building had to stop.

“We contracted a fire suppression specialist, but before they arrived, he unfortunately passed away,” the town wrote. “This was a huge setback, as our spot in the queue was reset and thus put us in the back of the line for service.”

The town quickly looked for another fire suppression company to help, and during a virtual assessment with the second company learned what parts they needed to order to fix the fire suppression system – but those parts were on backorder globally and there was no confirmed delivery date.

Some of the needed parts – the ones the town had ordered back in the spring for the ice plant and compressors – arrived at the end of August. Once they were installed, the technician said there were still more issues and consequently even more parts needed.

The town is still waiting on a date for when the technician can come and start the ice plant, which means building the curling rink ice is also delayed.

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Once the ice plant is running, the town plans to send their insurance company an alternate plan to allow the arena to operate at a reduced capacity until the fire suppression issue is fixed.

Reminiscent of Covid-19 times, this plan will involve lowering capacity limits to 60 people in the arena and not allowing the concessions area to open.