WESTLOCK – While the discovery of “a lot” of additional asbestos has delayed Jubilee Arena’s date with the wrecking ball for at least a few more weeks, it’s also potentially added $50,000 to the final bill, which is now expected to top $300K.
At the Nov. 14 Town of Westlock council meeting, operations director Robin Benoit said crews recently found more asbestos “we didn’t know was there” and “didn’t get picked up in the original report” — the recent discovery and delay was previously reported in the Nov. 15 edition of Town & Country This Week. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous silicate mineral which was commonly used as a building material until its adverse effects on human health were widely acknowledged in 1970s — the most common diseases associated with chronic exposure to it are asbestosis, the scarring of the lungs due to asbestos inhalation, and mesothelioma, a type of cancer.
“It’s tied to when they started pulling the bleachers out as they discovered a lot of asbestos within the bleachers and a wall that was there as well,” said Benoit, who estimated final demolition of the 59-year-old arena won’t start until the end of November, early December. “So now they go in and do additional abatement and get it cleaned up, so that will take a little bit of time.”
Town officials had been hopeful that following the erection of a security fence around the site the week of Oct. 31 that the arena would come down shortly after. Previously, the town had first pegged the week of Sept. 12 and then the week of Sept. 19 for the final phase of the $280,000 demolition as the interior had been previously stripped. As for the additional cost, Benoit told councillors it’ll be up to $50,000 as crews were working off a previous town-commissioned report that detailed asbestos in the facility.
“It’s additional work that needs to be done from what the original quantity was … this is a matter of quantity overall,” said Benoit.
“Just setting up for negative airspace and everything is a bunch of extra work (that they could have done) as they were already there at one point,” added mayor Ralph Leriger.
Demolition of the town’s first indoor arena was initially budgeted at $1 million and funded via unrestricted reserves in the municipality’s 2022 capital budget — CAO Simone Wiley has stated previously there will be additional costs to level and landscape the site in 2023. Benoit has also said previously that concrete from the arena will be recycled at the local Lafarge Canada site for free and the contractor has given them a credit back on the metal that can be scavenged.
Wiley said in a Nov. 15 follow-up interview that while they’re disappointed the demo has been continually delayed throughout the fall, along with the revelation of more asbestos on site, they’re content that final bill be “substantially lower” that what was originally estimated.
“So, we’re happy with that final number,” she said.
Jubilee Arena, which was initially called the Westlock and District Jubilee Family Recreation Centre, opened July 13, 1963, and cost $75,744 to build, while the first hockey game at the facility, played on natural ice as it didn’t yet have an ice plant, was Dec. 29, 1963.
The arena was expected to come down following the opening of the Rotary Spirit Centre (RSC) in 2012, but those plans were shelved following the discovery of asbestos at the site — a report from that year stated that 16 of 26 building-material samples tested positive for the substance.
In late 2018, the council of the day talked about demolishing the building and briefly considered renovating it for use as a warm-storage facility. But when faced with a $1 million price tag for that work, or $900,000 just to bulldoze it, council put the issue on the backburner.