Calgary arena deemed structurally unsafe by engineers day before roof collapsed

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No injuries were reported after the roof collapsed at Fairview Arena in southeast Calgary, one day after it was deemed structurally unsafe by city engineers and the Calgary Fire Department.

Emergency crews were called to the arena in the 8000 block of Fairmount Drive S.E. just after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Leslie Ann Kalman, director of the Fairview facility and league development for the Southern Alberta Women's Hockey Association — which operates the city-owned arena — told CBC News structural problems were first detected on Monday.

"Yesterday we noticed signs that we had a structural problem and we cleared the building and have been working with the City of Calgary and all the emergency groups to assess what we needed to do, and the arena has collapsed," she said. 

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Calgary fire spokesperson Carol Henke confirmed the Safety Response Unit was called in on Monday afternoon. 

"With engineers, they deemed the building unsafe so it was evacuated and locked up," she said.

"Right now it's not safe for fire crews to go inside, which is why we are looking at it from above and around. We don't anticipate that anybody was inside because it was locked."

Henke said the city's building department will be involved in the investigation, but "right now it's too early to tell," a cause.

Arena users shocked

"We were just in the rink 48 hours ago," said area resident Ken Lima-Coelho. "My son had a hockey practise at 8:30 in the morning... so my wife was there with him. Then a few hours later we went for the family skate put on by the Fairview Community [Association] right there in that rink."

Lima-Coelho said he was told by a neighbour that a hockey practise was stopped on Monday after users heard cracking noises coming from the roof. 

According to its website, the arena was built in 1972 and two adjacent halls were added four years later. 

Operations were turned over the City of Calgary in 2007. With $1.5 million in major renovations needed, the facility was put up for public tender.  

The hall went to the In-Definite Arts Society, but the arena was in bad shape, so the city upgraded the ice plant and roof and once again re-tendered its operation.

"Even then, the rink was small, had poor lighting, old plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation and small rooms. It also didn't come with a Zamboni, nets, or a score clock," reads the website.

SAWHA took over operations and more than $1 million in renovations has been completed since, according to the website.

Arts group impacted

The halls have also been closed, meaning the In-Definite Arts Society — which provides programming for 250 artists living with developmental disabilities and is the largest organization of its kind in the country — will also be without a home for the time being.

"We play a special role in the lives of our artists who look forward to coming each week to be a part of our program," said Jung-Suk Ryu executive director of the In-Definite Arts Centre.

"To tell them that for the time being, we really don't know if and when we are going to be opening our doors at that location is a pretty terrible thing to share with our artists."

Suk said they are working with city officials to find a temporary home for the group. 

The loss of ice times will also hurt the local sporting community, said Kevin Kobelka, executive director of Hockey Calgary.

"The weekdays is where we have the bigger shortage here in Calgary so it will affect us," he said. "We had some new facilities come on and we were hoping to gain some ice but I guess this is a one step forward, one step back type of scenario.

"There's a lot of history and a lot of heritage in that arena and it will be missed for sure."