It may have been foggy at Sudbury Arena in September, but city councillors were quite clear Monday they don't want to spend $50,000 a month to rent dehumidifiers.
They also weren't interested in spending as much as $800,000 to buy and install permanent dehumidifiers, which modern OHL rinks already have, but weren't an option when the downtown arena was built 62 years ago.
At issue was a fog-out during the Sudbury Wolves' first home game of the year Sept. 20. While humidity is always a problem in early fall and late spring, it was severe that day, Arena's Manager Ray Mensour told members of the community services committee Monday.
It's a worsening trend as temperatures generally have gotten hotter in spring and fall, he said, but normally the problem has been restricted to foggy glass along the boards.
“I don't know if it's global warming," he said, when asked why the fog was so bad this year. “But it's not unusual. We have fog (in the arena) every fall. It just never got to the extent it did (Sept. 20.)”
They've had spring exhibition games where the glass was so foggy, they had to move fans up a few rows so they could see the game.
“But we've never had to cancel a game before.”
After the game was cancelled Sept. 20, staff consulted with engineers, who said the only way to ensure it wouldn't happen again was to install two dehumidifiers.
“Based on the seating capacity at the Sudbury Community Arena, the engineer recommended that the facility would require two 10,000-cubic-feet-per-minute, gas-fired dehumidifiers,” Mensour wrote in his report to the committee. “The recommended units were recently installed at the Windsor Arena and old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.”
The cost to purchase the two units is $350,000, with installation, engineering and other costs bringing the total to between $750,000 and $850,000. They were able to rent them for October at a cost of $50,000, and the report recommended renting them for two months in the spring, as well, if councillors decided not to buy the units outright.
Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau said if a new arena isn't built for five years, that would mean the city would be wasting $500,000 renting the machines each spring and fall. If the dehumidifiers are truly necessary, he said it would make more sense to buy the units, and transfer them to the new rink whenever it's built.
But Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett said he was “shocked” staff would recommend spending so much money to deal with the fog.
“Can't we just turn up the air conditioning and make sure the doors are closed?" Kett said. “I don't find it responsible to spend $100,000 ... on something that has only happened once in 62 years.”
Mensour says the A/C was at maximum and the doors were closed on Sept. 20, and other measures were taken, such as pre-cooling the building. But with so many fans coming in and the warm temperatures, it proved to be too much.
When asked what other OHL arenas do, he said they aren't as old as the Elgin Street rink and already have dehumidifiers in place.
Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume asked whether the Wolves are helping to pay for the equipment rental.
No, Mensour said, since under its contract with the team, the city is supposed to provide a facility that's usable.
The report was for information only and the items will be decided as part of the 2014 budget deliberations.