Work began on Thursday to demolish the old Arena in Red Deer to prepare the way for a new building.

Work began on Thursday to demolish the old Arena in Red Deer to prepare the way for a new building.

End of an era: Arena demolition begins

Part of Red Deer’s sporting history went under the wrecking ball on Thursday.

Part of Red Deer’s sporting history went under the wrecking ball on Thursday.

Technically, a pair of excavators tackled the demolition job but the end result will be the same — in about a month Red Deer Arena will be gone.

“They just peel away at it piece by piece,” said project superintendent Curtis Martinek. “When everybody thinks of demolition, they think of the big wrecking ball, but it’s kind of a drawn-out process.”

Demolition crews will have to be especially cautious as they get closer to the neighbouring Pidherney Curling Centre, whose wall is only a few metres away from the arena.

Opened in December 1952, the 2,800-seat Red Deer Arena has seen countless hockey games and for many years was the prime location for political rallies, meetings, sporting events and concerts. In 1955, Alberta’s 50th anniversary celebrations for the province was held at the Arena with Premier Ernest Manning addressing the crowd.

Many will remember the arena as the site of the Red Deer Legion’s annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, an event that drew standing-room only crowds every year.

Renovations in 1995 bought the arena some time, but it had reached the end of its lifespan.

It will be replaced by a $21.6-million arena expected to be open in mid-2018, in plenty of time to be used for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

The new facility will have room temperature seating, gathering spaces, an interior connection to the curling centre, indoor walking track, larger and modernized change rooms, team warm-up areas, skate sharpening and laundry facilities. It will be connected to the adjacent curling club.

It will be built to the most modern environmental standards, said Martinek. “We’re ensuring that we’re building an environmentally sustainable building,” he said.

Other improvements of its predecessor include fixed seats, instead of benches, and warmer seating area, similar to the Enmax Centrium

“It won’t be a typical ice-cold community arena.”

That will, no doubt, go over well with all those dedicated hockey parents who have shivered through early-morning winter games and practices, cup of Tim Hortons in hand.

In a nod to its predecessor, the distinctive neon Red Deer Arena sign will be incorporated into the new building, although the final design has not been decided.

Martinek said as much as possible was salvaged from the old rink before the wreckers came in. Some of the mechanical equipment, seating area heaters, and even the old rink glass found new homes in other communities.

The public also got a chance to take home something from the old arena at a special auction in May.

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