With the oldest arena in the Beauce region, the municipality of Saint-Prosper decided a few years ago to have a new sports and community facility built. On September 7, 2019, the first skates will hit the ice at the Centre Récréatif Desjardins, a building built by the firm Honco Buildings at a cost of $8.5M.
Richard Couët, who has been the mayor of the municipality of Saint-Prosper since 2011, was kind enough to tell us about the inception of this project, which, in his opinion, will be the highlight of his career as an elected official. He began by saying that his municipality’s old arena, previously an airplane hangar in the city of Mont-Joli, had been dismantled and reassembled in Saint‑Prosper to serve as the town’s arena. The building itself was 75 years old. “A few years ago, the government passed legislation stipulating that refrigerant systems using freon would be phased out by 2020. It would have cost us $1M to replace our refrigeration system. We had even received approval for a subsidy for this purpose. However, the engineers reported that the arena’s ventilation system and insulation had to be overhauled,” recalled Couët. “As a result, we commissioned an assessment for the overhaul of the complete building. The walls weren’t insulated and there was no indoor air exchange system. In the end, the cost to renovate the building was $8M. And, when you try to restore an existing building, unpleasant surprises always occur. In 2014-2015 we opted for a new build with an estimated cost of $9M.”
A large-scale project
Adjacent to the arena was a 50-year-old community hall. The mayor wanted the new structure to house both an arena and a new community centre. “Our community centre’s heating system and water supply were connected to the arena. Since we were going to demolish the old arena, it would have been too expensive to keep the community hall alone, so we decided to incorporate it into the new build. It’s a lot simpler in terms of heating and air-conditioning.” The community centre will be located on the 2nd floor and will be able to accommodate 250 people. The windows on the façade will provide natural light. There will also be a removable wall that will allow us to subdivide the hall and access it via an independent entrance. A bar space has been planned for both rooms.
There will be seating for 250 in the ice rink area, which will be equipped with glass windows without columns. Also, a hallway with an unobstructed view will be located behind the last row of the stands to accommodate additional spectators. To enhance the visitor experience, radiant heating has been installed in the floor of the stands. Opposite the stands are the eight locker rooms, including a room for 22 players, allowing two teams to share the same space. “This creates a good dynamic. The garage league teams like to fraternize among themselves. The hockey game is often a pretext for the guys to get together,” said Couët. He also added that the new arena will have a female-only change room.
In terms of logistics, the locker rooms can be accessed from the lobby. A sliding door will allow for a smooth, obstacle-free flow of traffic towards a wide corridor leading to the athletes’ rooms and the referees’ room. The ice rink is the standard National Hockey League size, 200 feet long by 85 feet wide, and uses an ammonia refrigeration system.
The snack bar will be able to accommodate some fifty diners. With its raised floor and full-length windows without lintels, it will offer a stunning view of the ice rink. LED lighting was prioritized for its energy efficiency and will provide beautiful illumination, with intensity levels calculated according to the different sectors.
Wanting to use the contours of the land, Honco Buildings designed two main entrances. Users will converge on a huge, convivial lobby that’s big enough to ensure smooth traffic flow to all areas of the complex. Natural light flows in from the many full-length energy-efficient windows, filling the open-concept space with light. This highlights the centre of the lobby, making it the ideal spot for installing a suspended work of art. The roof will consist of structural steel panels coated with Galvalume Plus and bolted to create a perfect seal. The building envelope will be optimized by the use of wide clear spans, superior insulation with no thermal bridges and corridors with unobstructed views lining the walls for greater visibility inside. The structural ceiling, made of steel with a Galvalume Plus finish, which is an aluminum-zinc alloy coating, produces low thermal emittance but has a high light reflectance value. Located along the rear wall of the complex, the mechanical room will include the refrigeration system and all the equipment needed to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly. The rear wall will have exit doors to facilitate maintenance work. The building will also have a maintenance shop.
It pays to be patient
The idea of building a new complex took shape in 2014-2015, but construction was completed five years later. When asked about the delay, Couët admitted that public projects always take longer than those in the private sector. It was essential in this case to seek funding. “A small municipality like ours cannot absorb all the costs of a project costing nearly $10M. We submitted our plans to the provincial and federal governments, and this comes with a certain number of delays. But the wait was worth it because the project was accepted on a three-way split basis. As mayor, I also had to convince my people. We had the figures related to an overhaul and a new build. There was a one-million-dollar difference. If we had chosen the overhaul option, we would have received less subsidy money. A town-hall meeting was held and I sold the project by explaining that Saint-Prosper would have a structure that would be fortunate to receive valuable contributions from both governments.”
Inspired by best practices
Couët said that no major problems arose during the project development phase. “We really worked on our project. I was fortunate to have a general manager who played hockey and was still involved in this sport, as a coach, among other things. Also, his daughter played for a university team in Boston. This is a guy who really knows arenas.” A three-person committee, which included the mayor and the general manager, visited six arenas in the province. “We saw several models. I asked the managers of the different arenas what problems they encountered on a daily basis. Our specifications were very complete—over 500 pages in all. We included everything and we were very concerned about details,” recalled the mayor. By way of example, he told me that the corridors are very wide. Two hockey players with their hockey bags can easily fit side-by-side. Our athletes don’t have to twist and turn to make their way through the building.
On February 12, 2019, a fire destroyed Saint-Prosper’s old arena, shortening the season, which usually ends in April. “That was an abrupt ending. The timing was bad. Yes, we would have demolished it, but later.” In addition to minor hockey and the old-timers’ hockey tournament, which will be back after a year’s absence, the municipality’s industrial and commercial trade fair will be held in the new complex. Also, the Festival Nashville en Beauce event will take place on the grounds of the complex. “Our site is next to the high school. There are already two new hockey groups that will be starting their activities in September, as well as a new figure skating cohort organized by our school.”
An attractive place
“As for the new community centre, it will be air-conditioned, unlike the old one. We already have bookings for the holidays.” However, the Couët administration has no expectations concerning usage. It describes the complex as a capital asset belonging to the municipality. “This type of building is rarely cost-effective. Our goal was to build an attractive new building that would allow us to organize activities and attract people. Yes, we would like the building to pay for itself. However, even if the Centre Récréatif Desjardins fails to meet this goal, it’s still an essential facility for the municipality,” he asserted.
Couët couldn’t end our interview without mentioning the excellent work done by the contractor, Honco. “They kept to the timeline and were responsive to our needs.”
Including the preliminary studies, the purchase of new equipment such as the resurfacer, nets and new furniture, the project amounted to nearly $9.2M, according to the mayor. “During my reign, Saint-Prosper saw definite improvements in terms of the municipal water supply, roadways and parks. But this building is truly our greatest achievement.”
The official opening of the complex is slated for September 7th. Construction extended from May 2018 to August 2019.