Selkirk closes iconic arena, putting its future on thin ice

The old Barn in Selkirk has been a community hub for the past seven decades, but a drop in demand for ice time and a long list of needed repairs has prompted the city to shut the arena down this year.

It’s left the future of the iconic arena on thin ice.

Since it opened in Selkirk in 1949, the arena was a space where the Selkirk community gathered.

“The memories that are there for my lifetime are just amazing. Just awesome,” said Curtis Moffatt, who grew up going to the rink in the early 1960s.

“We would walk down with our skates when we were old enough – five or six, walked down there and somebody would tie skates on for us and we would go skating at the rink.”

It’s memories that have spanned generations. Fourteen-year-old Carson Gray says he played sledge hockey at the rink.

“With the arena, it’s getting old and crumbling,” he said. “I think it’s getting unsafe.”

The exterior of the Selkirk Arena. (image source: Danton Unger/ CTV News Winnipeg)

Now the old Barn sits empty.

The City of Selkirk says due to a drop in demand for ice time and expensive repairs, it will not be opening the arena this year.

“It is an obsolete building. The facility is failing and the ice plant has failed,” said Duane Nicol, the CAO for the City of Selkirk.

To replace the ice plant would cost anywhere from $800,000 to $1 million, Nicol said. On top of that, he said since 2015, there has been an 84 per cent drop in ice bookings at the arena. Last season, he said only 14 hours a week out of the available 40 hours was booked.

“When you have a facility like this, that you know last year was sitting idle for over half of the amount of time that it was available, that’s not really good use of taxpayers’ dollars,” Nicol said. “So we want to reallocate some of that in the long run to other recreation activities.”

By keeping the old arena closed, Nicol said the city is saving about $6,000 by reallocating staff and equipment to the city’s newer Selkirk Rec Complex.

He said most of the ice time that was booked at the old Barn this year has been shifted over to the Rec Complex, but some users will need to drive to rinks in surrounding communities like St. Andrews and Winnipeg Beach.

The city is looking at other ways to accommodate ice time, including potentially opening the Rec Complex earlier on Saturdays and Sundays.

The local hockey community says they are feeling the hit.

“We’ve been able to make it work right now but it has had a huge impact on our ice availability. There’s lots of user groups. It’s a big city, and now we’re only down to one ice surface,” said Chad Balmer, the president of the Lord Selkirk Minor Hockey Association.

He said the teams would use the Barn for practice time, not for games – racking up about 15 hours of weekday ice time and about eight hours of weekend ice time.

He said the teams are making up their ice time at the Rec Complex and at rinks in surrounding communities.

“We’ve had to shift our teams all over the place,” he said, saying the city needs another indoor rink.

That is exactly what is being planned to replace the old barn – at least in the long run.

“This facility will be coming to the end of its life very shortly. We have a plan for replacing this facility with a new multipurpose rec facility that will have a lot of different activities,” said Nicol.

He said the city is still in the process of doing a feasibility study and allocating funds for the project. However, there is no timeline for when a new rec complex could replace the Barn.

As for the future of Selkirk’s iconic arena, Nicol said the city is not making any definitive statements as to whether it will open in future years.

Whatever happens with the land, residents say they want to see action sooner rather than later.

“Sad to see the Barn go but I think the community would be really excited to see maybe a new complex or new facility that really highlights recreation and in our community,” Balmer said.  

The Selkirk Arena has closed due to a drop in demand for ice time and a long list of needed repairs. (Image source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg)

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