Graham Construction

Players for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins and the entire community soon will be enjoying a new $22 million arena financed by donors, the Building Canada fund, the province of Saskatchewan and the city of Estevan. Built by Graham Construction, the 110,000-square-foot facility’s ice rink will have 2,200 seats for sporting events and 4,000 for other events such as concerts. Work began on the arena in August 2009 and was substantially completed in May.

One significant change to the facility’s plan was the addition of 24 corporate suites, which Graham Construction Project Manager Colin Olfert considers one of the best features of the new arena. Originally designed with eight suites, the client quickly realized the need for more once they began selling leases on the suites. “Within three days of lease sales starting, the client called the architect and asked for the maximum number of suites that could be incorporated into the design,” Olfert says. “The total suite count came to 24, and the newly planned 16 suites were sold within a few days. Companies are on the waiting list for the leases when they renew. They’re a very hot commodity.”

Down to Seats

The new arena is both aesthetically pleasing and functional for spectators. With the arena concourse at grade level – one level above the arena’s floor – spectators can easily walk down to their seats. “This is something the client stressed from day one,” Olfert emphasizes. The 24 corporate suites are on a mezzanine level above the concourse. The concessions, washrooms and other amenities are all accessible from the concourse level.

The three-level structure has a concrete foundation slab and walls. Several concrete grade beams are used throughout the facility to support load-bearing walls and the bleacher support walls. All support walls, along with the walls for the eight locker rooms and service rooms, are all concrete block. The walls throughout the facility are painted a variety of lively colours.

The arena is housed in a pre-engineered metal building with open web trusses to support the roof and interior liner panels to cover the insulation in the walls. Designed by Number TEN Archi­tectural Group, the arena connects to the existing Souris Valley Leisure and Aquatic Centre, which was originally built in the early 1990s.

“In between the new arena and the existing leisure centre is where the main washrooms, lobby, concessions and kitchen are located,” Olfert explains. “A key architectural feature of this arena is the lobby with its wood columns and decking creating a very nice look and a warm and inviting atmosphere.”

The arena is heated using in-floor heating and a supplemental HVAC system. Waste heat from the rink’s ice plant heats glycol that is circulated through the in-floor heat piping and also warms the water in the leisure centre’s pool.

Grab Bag of Soil

Excavating 4 metres below grade to keep the concourse at grade level required an extra investment in water control. “The client made the choice to go into the ground, and everyone involved in the project is glad they did, because the below-grade ice surface and seating adds another dimension to the facility,” according to Olfert.

Four dewatering wells were drilled around the facility during construction to draw groundwater into the storm sewers. Underground weeping tile – perforated plastic pipe – also draws groundwater away from the arena’s foundation and drains into pumps that are placed through­out the facility.

“Dealing with soil removal for this pro­ject was interesting,” Olfert says, ex­plaining that inconsistency was the biggest obstacle.

“Once we started digging, we found a grab bag of different soil types,” Olfert says. “In certain areas, we had a lot of clay and a little bit of sand, and in other areas, there were pockets of sand. The biggest hurdle was the coal within the soil. Once we got down to lower than 4 metres, we found a layer of coal, which is very permeable, causing water to flow through it very quickly. We had to go through another couple of control measures over and above what was included in the design to control the water and give the concrete slab the stability it required to last over time.”

The solution, he adds, was to lay down a geotextile material and cover it with approximately 1 foot of three-quarter-inch crushed rock.

All construction management was led by Graham including approximately 32 subcontractors who worked on the project. Graham self-performed rough carpentry, concrete forming and finishing, and installed the glulam wood structure and decking.

Since the spring grand opening, the arena has been put to good use hosting a large fundraising event and a concert. Up next is the making of the ice for this summer’s hockey camps. With glowing re­views coming from the client and the general public, the new Estevan arena is another successful project for Graham.