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Fort Smith’s arena set to reopen after staff work through holidays


Fort Smith’s ice rink is expected to reopen by the end of the week after a months-long battle to overcome multiple equipment failures.

The arena ice plant, installed less than a decade ago, has failed several times in the past year. Since the fall, residents of Fort Smith have barely managed to piece together a week of skating.

Municipal staff worked through the holidays in their latest bid to fix the ice plant, with help from a contractor.

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Town senior administrator Cynthia White said one staff member had come in on Christmas Day to flood the ice, with more employees coming in on Boxing Day and throughout the holiday period to help.

“I know my phone rang about 700 times throughout the holidays with questions about the arena,” said deputy mayor Jay MacDonald.

“I want to thank the staff for putting in the effort and doing everything that they could to try to get this to work out.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Fort Smith Skating Club said it had been told the town is “optimistic for a Friday opening.”

“We need three-quarters of an inch of ice. We’re at five-eighths today. So we’re very close,” White told councillors on Tuesday.

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A broken pump will now be refurbished and returned to Fort Smith in the spring, White added, meaning the town will have backup equipment in place.

Councillors on Tuesday passed a motion refunding user groups for fees they paid during the short window in which the arena was operational in the fall. White said that amounted to around $1,800 in revenue.

“I think it’s a really nice gesture on behalf of the town to waive the fees of the ice times,” said MacDonald.

“I know that the user groups would very much appreciate it. I know it’s been a challenge for them.”

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