Town council announced last week that the long-awaited new recreation centre would open to the public on March 13.

“On behalf of council and the Town of Hay River, we are pleased to announce the Recreation Centre will be open on Tuesday, March 13, at 5 p.m.,” stated the March 9 announcement signed by Mayor Brad Mapes.

“As we get ready for the Arctic Winter Games, the Rec Centre will be a flurry of activity, but we invite you down to tour the new facility and see all it has to offer.”

The arena ice surface – now NHL regulation size – is noticeable larger than the ice surface in the previous recreation centre. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Mapes and council offered thanks to the residents of Hay River for their continued patience and support “as we faced numerous hurdles along the way.”

The recreation centre’s opening date – which Mapes said was solid – comes just five days before the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) opening ceremonies, which are to be held in the new recreation centre on March 18, and just a day before AWG workers are to move into the new centre on March 14.

Speaking to The Hub, Mapes said, “I can only say the council, administration, all the town staff, the contractors have all had the same common goal to try to get this building built as quick as possible. It is what it is. Stuff has happened. At the end of the day, we can only ask for forgiveness for the delays. I believe that, when people go in the building, they’ll soon forget. It’s a beautiful building.”

The latest delay was caused by work required on the central stairwell to address a concern of the NWT Fire Marshal – safe exiting of the building on the central stairwell in case of fire. It was enclosed with fire-rated drywall.

“There were other issues in there that we just had to get cleaned up,” said Mapes. “That was the major one, but there were other issues.”

The mayor noted that, when the demolition and rebuild project began in the summer of 2016, the target was to have the work completed by October of last year, meaning there would have been three or four months to account for delays before the start of the Arctic Winter Games.

“They knew fairly quickly that it was going to be tighter,” he said.

The target opening date was changed to just before Christmas last year, then to late January and then mid-February before the town stopped giving target dates.

The curling rink was cluttered with construction material on March 9, but that was to be all removed when the new recreation centre opened on March 13.

The AWG meant there was no more leeway for the project, said Mapes. “We went and had a meeting with the contractor today (March 9) and basically just stated that the Arctic Winter Games people have to be in there on the 14th.”

Mapes added the delays to the project were worrying.

“All of council and administration have worried sick about it, about trying to make sure that this gets completed in a timely manner,” he said.

However, the mayor said he was always confident the project would make the Arctic Winter Games.

Speaking earlier on March 9, AWG Host Society president Greg Rowe and general manager Todd Shafer also expressed confidence the project would be finished in time for the games.

“We have contingency plans for everything, but this one is ready,” said Rowe. “So there’s no concerns on that aspect.”

As for Shafer, he said,”No worries from our standpoint.”

The $23.5-million project was completed by major contractor Clark Builders.

Mapes said some minor work will remain to be done after the recreation centre opens.

“There’s some list of deficiencies stuff that’s going to be minor touch-ups,” he said. “There might be the odd doorknob or stuff that has to be fixed up. There are some seasonal deficiencies – outside painting that has to be done.”

However, Mapes said the centre will appear finished, and those details will be tackled after the Arctic Winter Games.

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