Call it growing pains, but operational difficulties continue to surface at the new Woolwich Memorial Centre three months after its official opening. Most embarrassing have been melts that have shut down the ice surfaces at the facility, cancelling some hockey games and seeing the township forego the associated revenue.
Included in the list of woes are ongoing issues with cleanliness, user group access and staffing.
It all adds up to a headache for Larry Devitt, the township’s director of recreation and facilities. Deficiencies are to be expected in any new building, but he said he expected some of the larger ones – and soft ice is a major no-no – to be sorted out by now.
“There are some mechanical issues at the facility – we’re working on it,” he said, noting staff is working with the contractor who built the 113,000-square-foot multi-use complex in Elmira.
The key right now is to identify which issues are mechanical deficiencies in need of a technical fix and which may be operational, requiring work on the staff side.
The problems that have been popping up take staff time, which in turn takes time from other work in the building, Devitt said, pointing to the untidiness members of the public have commented on.
“We’re not as efficient as we should be when we get the building operating as it should,” he admitted. “It’s a negative, annoying situation – it’s affecting everyone.”
Coun. Ruby Weber, a strong proponent of the $23-million project, admits to some frustration with problems. While some of the issues are very minor, taken as a whole they form the basis of regular complaints.
“I’m up there a lot. I can’t go up to the arena without hearing that something’s not right.”
Devitt said he is hopeful some of the larger headaches should be dealt with before the holidays, acknowledging the inconvenience.
“People are being displaced. They’re coming into a facility that has had a number of situations – we’ve closed the pool, we’ve closed the ice,” he said.
Officials with the Elmira Sugar Kings note that the ice has been bad for many of the team’s home games, drawing comments from some of the visiting squads.
The hockey club is also hoping to resolve operational “difficulties” with its Blue Line Club, the licensed area at Sugar King home games. The organization has had problems with it since the move from the old Elmira Arena.
Team president Jeff Seddon, having met with Devitt and his staff, said he hopes for a solution in the new year.
Cumbersome rules surrounding the storage and handling of liquor and beer – the team acquires a special occasion permit for each game – prompted the Kings to wrap up the Blue Line Club last month.
For his part, Devitt said the township is looking into liquor licensing options, adding, however, that other issues at the complex are more pressing right now.
Related to the Blue Line Club, a technical problem with a large rollup door to a concession area upstairs at the arena remains outstanding. The door remains out of service because a lack of safety devices prevents it from being approved for use.