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Popular Toronto arena to unexpectedly close for months due to emergency roof repairs

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A popular arena in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood is unexpectedly closing its doors for roof repairs.

George Bell Arena, near Runnymede Road and St. Clair Avenue West, will be shutting down for several months starting on Friday.

In a statement provided to CP24.com, the City of Toronto said while doing “pre-engineering work” related to a planned capital project at George Bell Arena, an engineer “identified potential concerns with the roof of the facility if there is snow load accumulation greater than 30 cm.”

“Given the winter season, out of an abundance of caution and to allow for additional engineering investigation, the arena will be closed to the public beginning late-December, potentially until March 2023,” said city spokesperson Ashika Theyyil.

“Findings of this more detailed investigation and confirmed timelines will be shared once available.”

Theyyil said the arena, which is one of eight in Toronto operated by a volunteer board of management, is working with the city and ice user groups on “relocation options,” including finding unused ice time in other facilities.

“Holiday hockey camps have been successfully relocated, and staff are working directly with the arena’s permit holders,” she told CP24.com.

“We recognize the significant disruption this closure will have to the George Bell Arena community, and we are committed to minimizing this disruption as much as possible.”

Deidre Norman, the arena’s interim manager, said the building’s roof was initially slated to be refurbished in 2020, but was “put off.”

With a big storm expected to hit the GTA in the coming days, she said the decision was made to close the arena for the winter for repairs as its roof won’t be able to handle a “heavy snow load.”

Norman also indicated that management only found out about the closure on Tuesday and are trying to help user groups find ice time elsewhere. She said they hope to reopen George Bell Arena in the spring.

Engineers are expected to be at the site tomorrow.

Neil Doctorow has run kids hockey camps and training sessions at George Bell Arena since 2014 and is now scrambling to come up with a plan for the ones he’s organized over the holiday break.

He told CP24 that the closure will have a significant impact on his work.

“It’s the absolute worst timing. … It’s a nightmare. It’s not right,” he said late Thursday afternoon, just hours after he got word about the arena’s unexpected closure.

“They should wait and hold off (on the roof repairs.)”

Doctorow said he was under the impression that roof repairs at George Bell Arena would get underway sometime in the spring. He’s now left with about 90 children enrolled in his holiday programs as well as roughly 20 staff members who were expecting to hit the ice at George Bell Arena starting next Tuesday.

“This is absolutely ridiculous. It’s just not possible for me to pivot that quickly,” he said, noting the nearby Lambton Arena on Dundas Street West just isn’t suitable for their needs as there isn’t adequate heating throughout the facility.

“The more I think about it this is a disaster.”

Doctorow, who is the owner of Central Hockey Academy, said if he can’t come up with an alternative plan he may be forced to call off his holiday programming alltogether.

CP24.com has reached out to local Coun. Frances Nunziata for comment but has not yet heard back.

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