February 6th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 6
The End of an Era
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Photo Crowsnest Museum
A group of councillors and community minded individuals who salvaged material from the old Blairmore Arena for use in the erection of a brand new (Albert Stella Arena) curling rink and arena that was opened in 1955. Back row, left to right; Guido Martini, John Gibos, ?, William Jallep, Mr. Bannan, Bill Gray, Max Brown and George Brown. Front row, left to right, Joe Gibos, Ken Reese, Mr. McAndrew, ?, ?, Arthur Decoux.
David Selles
Pass Herald Reporter
One of the longest lasting rinks in the Crowsnest Pass is officially closed.
After a lengthy life as part of the Crowsnest Pass, the doors to Albert Stella Memorial Arena were closed on January 29 due to the arena being deemed unsafe for use.

A statement from the municipality says that an engineering consultant found the arena unsafe for use “under wind and snow loads, which could result in catastrophic failure under these conditions.”

Albert Stella Memorial Arena was built in 1955 and named after former councilor and profound community member Albert Stella.

A long history of the arena includes highlights of hosting the opening ceremonies for the Special Winter Olympics on February 24, 1995 and hosted the figure skating events during the games.

Albert Stella Memorial Arena was also used during the Southern Alberta Winter Games that were held from March 1-4 of 1984 as a dining and social centre for participants and was the starting point for the march to the bottom of the Pass Powderkeg that ceremonially started the fifth Alberta Winter Games.

This arena has been a massive part of the community for many years and has most recently been used for gymnastics, skateboarding, wall climbing, soccer and lacrosse.

In 1972, a curling rink was added to the existing structure, with a kitchen upgrade also being added in 1984 and a dressing room added in 1991.
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The building has been in times of trouble for many years now.

This wasn’t the first time talk of closing the arena crept into council chambers.

Back in 2011, the municipality commissioned a study on all of the local facilities and at that time the Albert Stella Arena was already labeled as needing significant amounts of work to make it a safe building.

Mayor Painter says that another discussion was had in 2014 about how to move forward with the building.

“Another study was done and that study was saying that it would cost around $5,000,000 in improvements to bring it up to standards.”

The building was also temporarily closed in 2014 before being re-opened for use.

In 2015, the municipality invested $62,854 into the facility to keep it usable for the next couple of years, but weren’t able to provide the full $4.215 million estimated to fully repair the Albert Stella arena.

At that time, council also came to the realization that the lifespan of the building was nearing the end and the mayor says they budgeted $200,000 for removal of the building and that money has been carried over through the budget over the last few years.

Council then decided they wanted to do another check in on the arena earlier this month.

“We wanted to know where we stood with the building so we hired a structural engineer and the report that came back told us the building is in very bad shape and needed to be closed immediately,” said Mayor Painter.

The result of that study forced council to close the arena immediately.
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Mayor Painter says that council is currently trying to find was to relocate the groups who still used Albert Stella Arena on a regular basis.
“We're in the process of trying to relocate these user groups so they can continue their programs and we are waiting for administration to come back with recommendations of what we can do like how many of these groups we can accommodate and if there are groups that we aren't going to be able to accommodate at this time.”

Mayor Painter also added how much this building will be missed by the community and that the decision to close wasn’t easy.”

“The decision wasn’t an easy one to make but it was totally in the interest of public safety that we had to close this building. We don’t want anybody getting hurt. It’s been around for 60 plus years. It’s definitely a fixture in our community and a valued asset. It’s going to be truly missed by our community.”

Council is continuing the process of finding places for all the groups and will continue to look at what is next for the community.
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February 6th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 6
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