When the 40-year-old ice arena in Hazelton was condemned because of structural safety concerns, community leaders knew they wanted more than just a hockey arena in replacement. They wanted a new recreation centre that would truly serve the community. A key driver behind the project was not to just build the centre for the community—but to build it with the community. They wanted a new recreation centre that would help address some of the social problems in the area.
Poverty and unemployment pose huge challenges; unemployment for local residents runs upwards of 80 percent during winter months. Substance abuse and mental health issues were also concerning. While some on the Hazelton planning committee advocated for the use of steel because they thought it would be faster, others wanted wood for its warmth and durability. Since wood is a local product, they knew they could employ more people from the community in the building of the arena if they used wood-frame construction.
During the initial planning phase, community leaders discovered a 2014 study called BC Wood Arenas – Design and Construction of Wood Recreational Facilities, commissioned to determine if replacement structures could be built using wood instead of prefabricated steel. The report included a detailed comparative wood arena design, and by coincidence, the location chosen for load calculations was Hazelton. The design met nearly all of Hazelton’s criteria, and they decided to move forward. The resulting wood structural system is very close to the original design in the report. The centre contains an NHL-sized ice surface, seating for 500 spectators and a full-sized gymnasium, along with a fitness room, rental space and areas for community programming promoting wellness and personal development. The beautiful wood structure gives the community a point of pride that will last for decades.