News Local

Barrie Arena just a memory

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Seventy-four years of this city's hockey history now lies in rapidly diminishing piles on a Dunlop Street West lot.

Barrie (Dunlop) Arena has been demolished, its last bricks being trucked away to make room for a new fire hall.

"Certainly it served its purpose very well and there's no question there are a lot of memories in the community attached to it," said Randy Watson, the city's recreation manager.

But time marches on and Watson said what's left of Barrie Arena will likely be trucked away in the next few days. The floor is about all that remains intact.

It's taken roughly 10 weeks to bring down the old barn, a little longer than the six-to-eight-week estimate, mostly because of the care needed to remove asbestos.

But that delay shouldn't affect construction of the new fire station.

City council decided last March to build a new $12.1-million Fire Station No. 1 on the arena site. Its construction could begin by late next spring or early summer, with firefighters in their new fire hall No. 1 by late 2010.

"If it was up to me, we'd be in tomorrow," Chief John Lynn said.

The new fire hall will replace the Vespra Street station, which was built in 1964. It no longer meets accessibility standards, Ontario's Building Code or even regulations governing how fire departments operate. The property also isn't large enough to build a new fire hall there.

But demolishing Barrie Arena was a controversial decision, because of its long hockey history.

Along with losing the rink, Sue Kay's winter mural facing Eccles Street South was also lost in the demolition. It was painted right on the building's plaster, and could not be saved.

Watson said between 50 and 100 truckloads of material from the arena's demolition were taken away, some to as far away as Belleville and London, depending on its nature.

All of the wooden beams will be recycled and two sets of wood trusses are to be used in the heritage portion of the new fire hall.

The two-storey glassed heritage display is to be visible to Dunlop Street West. Two antique fire trucks, an antique hose wagon and numerous pieces of firefighting equipment and memorabilia, currently kept at different sites, will be displayed.

Every piece of the city's hockey history and heritage contained within Barrie Arena that can be reused or preserved for use or display in other facilities was also saved. Memorabilia such as banners, pictures and other history from the rink is being stored by the city until it's decided how it should be displayed.

Barrie's new 35,000-square-foot fire hall is to be located in the property's northwest corner. There will be room for not only the firefighters and their equipment, but for training, communications and administration.

Soil testing on the 2.8-acre Dunlop Street West site and demolishing the building has an estimated cost of $350,000.

Repairing Barrie Arena would have cost about $3 million, during the next one to five years, although some of the work was deemed discretionary. Its roof, electrical/mechanical systems, seats, boards and just about everything else needed work.

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