Local gymnasium facility is unsalvageable after snow
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
As delightful as falling snow is during the holiday season, many citizens across the Metro Vancouver region forget the damage it can bring. During an irregularly cold winter snap in mid-December, the Queens Park Arenex took a harsh blow. The roof that had stood the tests of many rainstorms couldn’t handle the onslaught of snow that night.
On December 19, 2016, the roof of the Arenex collapsed under the weight of a heavy snow cover. Luckily, no one was injured during the collapse. According to New West city officials, Arenex staff had heard “cracking sounds” four hours before the collapse, and quickly rounded up individuals to evacuate them to safety. In addition, proper precautions were taken as gas and electrical outlets were shut off and local firefighters were at hand.
With the snow causing much more damage than expected, the Arenex is expected to be demolished in the near future. In the meantime, city officials are in search of a replacement for the gym facility, which had welcomed residents for nearly 80 years.
“I know we have reached out to the school district, Douglas College, and the Justice Institute to see if there are any opportunities in any of their gymnasium facilities,” explained Mayor Jonathan Cote to the New Westminster Record. “We have also done some preliminary work to explore the opportunities of maybe putting up a temporary bubble facility in Queen’s Park. We are still waiting to get back information on all of those things, but we have already started the preliminary work to look into that.”
“I know we have had a structural engineer assess the situation. We don’t have a full report back yet on that,” Cote said in the interview. “We have also been conducting structural assessments on other city facilities. Although we are not concerned, we want to make sure that all of our civic facilities are safe, particularly as the snow continues to be in our community. So far we have not had anything report back with any concerns with any of our other facilities but we wanted to make sure we review that.”
New Westminster residents were taken aback by the abrupt turn of events, but have joined likeminded individuals by sharing the memories they experienced at the Arenex in a Facebook group open to the public.
Upon reflection, the staff members who were able to evacuate visitors in the centre were the true heroes, reiterated in an unknown author’s opinions post from the New Westminster Record.
“We are also reminded of how fragile life can be,” Arenex stated on their website. “Not a day goes by when we don’t hear of some accident that claims the life of someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is almost miraculous that workers heard a crunching sound and were able to get out before the building collapsed. On another Monday at another time, that building could have been filled with children or sports fans. The unthinkable could have happened. But it didn’t. For that, we know there are many in this city who are grateful. And we are among them.”