© photo by Joe Gibbons
By Bonnie Belec
Mile One Centre is beginning to show its age. Having opened in May 2001, the adolescent arena is feeling the effects of Newfoundland’s weather and the regular wear and tear 6,000 people can dish out during a variety of events, from hockey games to concerts.
Mile One general manager Bill Thistle says it isn’t cheap maintaining a $35-million facility, and the organization is trying to get ahead of the game by fixing problems before they get out of control.
However, some who follow sports have speculated that the stadium’s problems are already out of control, forcing its highest-paying tenant — the St. John’s IceCaps — to find alternative ice time in April for hockey practice due to poor ice conditions at the arena.
“You’ll have to check on that with them,” Thistle said, when asked if that was the case. “But we had practices here right up until the end of the year for visiting teams and our home team, and the ice was available.”
According to a column by Telegram sports editor Robin Short in April, the IceCaps practised at Twin Rinks and Torbay’s Jack Byrne Arena instead of at Mile One, but their coach, Keith McCambridge, didn’t say why.
Short wrote that insiders say the ice temperature has been bumped up to accommodate general skating during the day and that on game nights the temperature has been almost too cold for fans to bear.
While Thistle wouldn’t comment on the IceCaps not using Mile One, he did say there were problems identified with the ice throughout the year and there are plans to rectify them.
“Oh yes, part of the issue is the condensers on the roof, being able to control the air temperature, and those will be fixed this summer and we shouldn’t have that problem again,” he said.
“There was a couple of times this year we had issues with the ice and we dealt with them and we’re going to deal with them,” he said.
Thistle said the two biggest repair projects this summer are the roof and the two condensers — which maintain heating and cooling for the stadium — on the roof.
“We’re investing a lot of money to keep the building up and if we don’t invest the money it will be a big bill at some point down the road,” said Thistle, adding they’re also investing in a new ice deck to cover the ice when the space is used for other events.
He said the tender for roofing has been prepared and will be advertised in the next couple of weeks.
“There’s a number of wet spots on the roof we want to get repaired and get ahead of the game so we’re not going to have leaks,” he said.
Does the stadium have leaks now?
“Well, we do, but there are more wet spots than we have leaks, so we’re going to be proactive and get rid of those before they become bigger issues,” he said.
‘Starting to age’
As for the two big hoses that can be seen coming down from the ceiling into two big buckets, Thistle said that has nothing to do with the roof; instead, the hoses carry condensation from the condensers that aren’t working.
“The building is 12 years old now. We’re playing catchup. We’ve invested a fair amount of money over the last year getting the building up and ready for hockey and other things, but the building is starting to age,” he said.
Mile One Centre and the Convention Centre have an annual capital budget of between $300,000 and $400,000.
St. John’s Coun. Danny Breen, the city’s representative on the board of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, which operates Mile One, said the stadium’s subsidy from the city includes its capital budget. There’s also a capital amount for Mile One built into the accommodation tax, he said.
Last year it received $1 million, Breen said, and it’s set to receive $750,000 this year.
“We’ve operated within that subsidy for at least the past four years, and we’re down from a $2.2-million subsidy at one point,” he said.
“So when we bring down the annual financial report for last year May 6, we’ll explain how much was used and how much was necessary.”
Breen said over the past year some of the major expenditures for Mile One included a new Zamboni (approximately $150,000), a new scoreboard ($750,000, cost-shared with the IceCaps), new glass and new netting.
He said they won’t know how much the roof repairs will cost until the tenders come back.