For a hockey rink, losing the ice is the mother of all disasters – teams are sidelined, revenue is lost and creating a new slab is an expensive five days of toil.
Early Tuesday morning Bear Mountain arena came to within an hour of seeing its ice melt away after the facility was in the dark for more than 13 hours.
Lights went out across West Shore Parks and Recreation on Monday at about 3:15 p.m. after one of three underground high-voltage lines exploded inside a junction box near the arena.
“One of the phases arced and blew up. It burned right off,” said Wade Davies operations manager for the recreation centre. “It’s not the way you want to come back after the long weekend.”
BC Hydro diagnosed the problem and restored power to the upper section of the rec centre by 6:30 p.m. The Juan de Fuca ice arena was out for only about three hours, but it would be another 10 hours before power was restored at Bear Mountain.
Normal ice temperature hovers around 15 F (-9.5 C). By the time high-voltage specialists Horizon Power respliced the cable, the slab was 30.5 F and rapidly approaching the point of becoming a shallow wading pool. The ice plant finally fired up at 4:30 a.m.
“Another hour and we would have lost the ice in the Bear,” Davies said. “With the power out that long, ice would break free of the cement floor, it would lose its seal. If the seal is gone, we’ve got to rip it out and redo it all, four or five days of work.”
As far as ice disasters go, the timing could have been worse. The Victoria Grizzlies held their main training camp at Bear Mountain over the weekend, but had Monday off. Juan de Fuca minor hockey didn’t have ice time until Tuesday evening. Two men’s recreation teams were out of luck.
“We were lucky that by 3:15 p.m. (Monday) the main heat of the day had passed. If this had happened at 10 a.m., we’d have lost the ice,” Davies said. “The Grizzlies were back on at 3 p.m. Tuesday. There were still wet patches. I’ve been here 20 years and that’s the first time we’ve been that close to losing the ice.”
Davies said the fix by Horizon Power should solve the problem, although it remains unclear why the underground cable grounded out. They were lucky to have enough slack to reattach the line to the junction box, otherwise the arena would have been out for a week at least. Wade doubts portable power generators could have kept the ice plant going.
“If we had to extend three new power lines up the hill, we’re talking $10,000 to $20,000,” Davies said. “There would be a huge cost. Lost revenue, all the bookings. Putting new ice in takes five days, we have guys working around the clock.”