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Ubc Olympic Hockey Arena Phase I Within Weeks Of Completion


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Olympic hockey arenas on stream

Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun

Published: Monday, April 23, 2007

Two Olympics-related hockey arenas at the University of B.C. will be completed within weeks, well ahead of the planned August completion date.

That means UBC will be able to hold its hockey school at the new complex in July and minor hockey programs will be back this fall.

It had previously been unclear when the minor hockey programs would be able to return, putting pressure on other Lower Mainland arenas when UBC shut down its old four-rink complex last year.

John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, said Sunday the completion of two of the three arenas at the new $47.8- million UBC Winter Sports Centre is a psychological boost for both Vanoc and arena users.

"Naturally, most of us try and imagine what these incredible 2010 Winter Games sport venues will be like during and after the Games. We're pretty excited to share with the community that tangible evidence that the legacy of the Games is here now -- a full two and a half years ahead of the Games when two of the UBC arenas open their doors in July."

One of the completed rinks is new; the other is refurbished. Work on a third, larger 7,500-seat main stadium arena won't be finished until April 2008.

Vanoc is contributing $37.6 million to the construction of two new arenas, and refurbishment of the existing Father Bauer arena. Work began in April 2006.

The project created controversy because it forced the relocation and downsizing of a vibrant minor hockey program, as well as dislocating existing recreational programs. It also resulted in an overall loss of one arena.

But earlier this year the university said it would reopen the arenas to the Thunderbird Minor Hockey Association, as best it could while improving and expanding varsity sports programs of its own.

The project also ran into an unusual technical problem. Faulty cooling systems in the original arenas that were ripped down created a deep ground frost that forced Vanoc's builders to dig, raising costs.

The facilities will also be the home of the Paralympic sledge hockey games. Vanoc moved the events from Whistler last year after that community began to hedge on the cost of building a new arena. The move saved Vanoc $20 million.

Furlong said he was happy to see that the original Thunderbird arena, built in 1963, was retained and improved.

That arena was where Father David Bauer, a member of the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame, trained Canada's first national team and the 1964 and 1968 Canadian Olympic teams.

"We're also proud of what this means from a sustainability point of view because we've been able to take legendary Thunderbird arena and its history, and upgrade it so it can continue to contribute to community hockey and ice sports long into the future."

The new main arena, which is taking shape adjacent to the old Thunderbird arena, will have 7,500 seats at Games-time but will be reconfigured later to have 5,500 permanent seats.

jefflee@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

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