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Walls to fall at Uniplex next month

Temporary construction walls are going up, and soon, some large concrete walls will be coming down.The lobbies of the Elgar Petersen Arena, aquatic centre and curling rink at the Humboldt Uniplex are going to look quite different this winter.

Temporary construction walls are going up, and soon, some large concrete walls will be coming down.The lobbies of the Elgar Petersen Arena, aquatic centre and curling rink at the Humboldt Uniplex are going to look quite different this winter.Last week, a crew from Quorex Construction began putting up temporary construction walls in the lobbies of all three facilities, in preparation for $3 million renovations to the facility that are going to be taking place over the winter season.Renovations involve knocking down the walls between the three facilities, creating a truly linked facility, as well as building a new area to link the facilities with the new Humboldt Collegiate Institute (HCI), which is currently under construction on the southeast corner of the Uniplex site. Other parts of the renovation include adding an elevator to provide wheelchair access to all levels of the Uniplex, the installation of handicapped accessible washrooms on the upper level of the arena, and revamping the concession area.

The temporary walls, explained Leisure Services director Darrell Lessmeister as he led the way through the arena lobby construction zone, are meant to keep the dust from construction from compromising the rest of the facility.The walls cut off about half of the aquatic centre lobby, just over half of the arena lobby, and will eventually block off an entry and stairwell at the curling rink.And though at one time it was hoped that a lot of the construction work would take place over the summer, when both arenas were not in use, that did not happen.The weather, Lessmeister noted, has proved challenging this summer, and dealing with the challenge presented by the wealth of rain the region has received has changed their schedule somewhat. "Some areas are ahead, and some are behind," he stated. "We're pretty close to the timeline we anticipated."At this point, it's hoped the renovations will be complete by the fall of 2011.

Leading the way through the rink concession booth, Lessmeister opens a side door, and voila, there are the cinder block walls of the new section of building that links the Uniplex with the new HCI. This "infill area" as the city is calling it, will soon contain main floor public washrooms, something the arena does not currently offer, as well as administration offices and a fitness centre. Coming off the infill will be a new central desk area, where people will be able to pay for everything from swimming lessons to hall rentals. That desk will be located about where the aquatic centre lobby washrooms are now.Construction of the infill area has moved along quite well this summer. The masonry work is just about completed, and all the forms and utilities are in."The underground stuff is the big stuff," said Lessmeister.Back in the arena lobby, looking at the vending machines and other city-owned materials still located up against walls that will soon be knocked down, Lessmeister notes that the city has been given the deadline of August 25 to have everything out of the construction zone.Demolition of the walls will begin in September, with construction to follow after that. Having half the arena lobby walled off won't affect most of the facility operations, Lessmeister noted, and for the bigger events, like Humboldt Broncos games, that could be affected, they are making accommodations.The temporary wall through the arena lobby cuts off one door - the far left door on the outside - which will be used by the construction crew only. The public can still access the facility through the other three sets of doors on that side. However, the blocked door also means that the ticket wicket used mainly for Humboldt Broncos games is also blocked off. The city has spoken with the Broncos about the situation, Lessmeister said, and the hockey club plans to set up a table inside the lobby to sell tickets. The temporary wall also cuts off access to the arena concession, but the city has a plan to deal with that as well. They set up a satellite concession on the upper level of the arena last year in preparation for these renovations, Lessmeister noted, so that will look after some of the food sales."We'll do a lot more up there than we've done in the past," Lessmeister said. Hot food sales will happen out of the kitchen area in Jubilee Hall, which is being set up to handle those demands. And they are making contingency plans, he added, should the hall be booked while an event is happening in the arena.It will actually, Lessmeister feels, be a better kitchen for the concession staff. They will have two grills instead of one, he said, and six burners instead of two. The deep fryers from the present concession will be moved to the Jubilee Hall kitchen as well.Also, he noted, the kitchen in the hall has a dishwasher, as well as a walk in cooler and freezer, which the concession area doesn't have. Some of the other coolers from the concession will be put to use elsewhere in the building.All that equipment will go back into the concession once construction is done, he noted."There's nothing wrong with (the equipment) we have," Lessmeister noted. "It's just going to be moved around (in the new concession)."When the renovations are complete, they will have a more functional concession area to serve all three facilities, Lessmeister indicated. The new kitchen and concession, Lessmeister promised, is going to flow a lot better than the old one, which will work better for staff and for customers. The elevator will also work better than the one wheelchair lift the facility has now, which needs On the curling rink side, the temporary construction wall will mean that only one stairwell - the one on the southwest side - will be in use. The door on the southwest side will also be the only outside public access to the building, which is the door that three-quarters of people use anyway, Lessmeister indicated.And while the walls might make things a little weird for this winter, no facility should be closed. All the facilities will remain open during the construction period, Lessmeister noted."All the ice operations will remain the same. They are not affected."However, they will lose access to the old concession area for the entire winter season, he foresees, and they won't be able to occupy some areas of the building until the construction of the high school is complete next fall, due to some linked mechanical systems that have to go through certification first.Everyone is so far dealing very well with the construction that's happening, Lessmeister noted, and the crew has been doing "and excellent job with the challenges that have been dealt them."This summer has been busier than usual at the Uniplex. The Humboldt Co-operative Day Care has been using the Curling Rink since the spring, as they wait for their new space to be completed inside St. Augustine School, and the kids' Summer Fun Program has been using the arena for most of their activities this summer.