By Amit Shilton
Ryerson’s varsity figure skating team and intramural hockey league are still locked out of Moss Park Arena more than two weeks after a fire caused severe smoke damage to the downtown facility. It now looks as though teams may be out in the cold for several more weeks as construction crews work to repair the extensive damage.
This was going to be the first year the arena would be open in September since it underwent $1.6 million worth of renovations last year.
Around 11 p.m. on Sept. 21, a small fire started in a storage room in the arena’s upper level. The room housed office equipment such as computers, printers and monitors. And while the flames didn’t spread to the ice surface, billowing smoke destroyed the ceiling, melted parts of the plexiglass bordering the ice, and blew out arena windows. The extent of the damage is still unknown, arena manager Brian Sutton said.
Outside the arena, the smell of a fireplace hangs in the air. A dumpster sits beside the arena, filled with the remains of burnt scraps of metal, ashen planks of wood and blackened hockey sticks.
“The building was filled with black smoke,” Sutton said.“It happened relatively fast and the heat detectors kicked in right away.”
The fire department responded quickly, arriving on the scene in three minutes, Sutton said. But although the fire was contained in the room, the flooding that ensued ended up causing more damage to the arena than the fire itself — leaving the rink blanketed by a thick layer of soot.
“They literally have to clean everything,” Sutton said. “Right now we’re trying to finish up the cleaning hopefully by next Friday.”
The cause of the fire still remains unknown, but Sutton believes it was sparked either from a fault in the room’s electrical wiring or the office equipment within the room.
“They don’t know how it started,” he said. “They couldn’t determine either (possibilities).”
Renovation saw the rink get a new floor, boards and glass last year. Now, a restoration project will begin. Last year’s renovation was the arena’s first in 20 years.
“I told the city if we ever took the ice out the boards would fall over,” Sutton said of the arena’s condition before the renovation.
Ryerson’s figure skating team, which splits time training between Moss Park Arena and the University of Toronto’s Varsity Arena, will have it’s on-ice practice time significantly cut.
“It affects us because we lose an edge over other teams that are training,” said team veteran Alison Kennedy said.
Instead, they’re focusing on off-ice training to help build their muscles and prepare them for when they do finally get back on the ice.
However the team, who will host the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship finals on Feb. 15-16 at Varsity Arena, remain hopeful that they’ll be able to get back on the ice soon.
“A little fire won’t shut us down,” Kennedy said.
Ryerson’s Intramurals and Camps Coordinator Randy Pipher expects the hockey league to start in November, much like the schedule used when the arena went under renovations last year. He said student participants won’t feel a financial hit. S
utton, meanwhile, hopes that the arena will be operating again by October 23.
“It’s a long, long process,” he said. “There’s not much left.”