Closure of Alberni Multiplex due to ammonia leak affecting community

WatchFrustrations are running high in Port Alberni, where that city's only ice rink, the home of the Alberni Bulldogs has been closed due to an ammonia leak for more than two weeks now. As Skye Ryan reports, its closure is having a big impact.

Greg Hillman looked on heartbroken at the lack of ice in the Alberni Valley Multiplex Wednesday.

“We’ve had 37 years of no problems and we’ve always had ice,” said Hillman of Accent Refrigeration.

“It’s a big deal. This is the hub, this is it.”

Port Alberni is a hockey town and proud of it, its Alberni Valley Bulldogs Junior A team is a source of pride and identity.

“The whole town’s pretty much about hockey a lot of the time,” Alberni resident Riley Amos. said.

Yet the team, its fans of thousands, and local figure skating and minor hockey clubs, have all been shut out of the Alberni Valley Multiplex after a low-level ammonia leak triggered an alarm on Nov. 3.

Officials say the shutout should have been over weeks ago, once necessary repairs were made in the rink.

“It’s had a massive impact,” said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions.

“As you can imagine we have hundreds of kids in this community who play hockey.”

“We’re ready to go, we were ready to make ice. We would have had ice Sunday,” said Hillman.

“Fifteen days later we’re still waiting to hear from the provincial regulator, Technical Safety BC,” said Willa Thorpe of the City of Port Alberni’s Parks, Recreation & Heritage.

“That we’re okay to start the plant,” she said.

The Bulldogs have already been forced to postpone or relocate six games. That is 20 per cent of their home schedule.

“I mean the hotels, the restaurants just the impact to small businesses in our community,” said Minions.

“Bulldogs fundraising, I mean this is just so far-reaching, unfortunately,” she said.

Technical Safety BC has said it is still waiting on confirmation of repairs from the manufacturer of the arena’s chiller, and are taking every precaution due to ammonia’s potential to be deadly.

But Hillman says the community’s suffering due to bureaucracy.

“I’ve got 37 years I’ve never seen this,” said Hillman.

“There’s just one hurdle after another after another.”

The City of Port Alberni is expecting an update from Technical Safety BC on Wednesday night, and say they’ll start making the ice again in their hockey town just as soon as they are told they can.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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