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Burk's Falls Mayor starts fundraising drive to replace arena score clock, Zamboni

This could extend the life of the Zamboni for another five to 10 years
Burk's Falls Mayor Chris Hope, left, and arena manager Graham Smith in the local arena. Hope has started a fundraising campaign to replace the arena score clock, pictured in the background, and the Zamboni. Smith says the Zamboni is in Brantford having its engine replaced to extend its life for at least five more years and maybe longer.

In three to four years the Armour, Ryerson and Burk's Falls Memorial Arena will need a new score clock and after it's been replaced, about another three to four years later the arena will need a new Zamboni.  

To avoid a future hit on the budget, Mayor Chris Hope has initiated a public fundraising drive so that the money is in place to buy both pieces of equipment when the time arrives. Hope calls the drive 'Got Time for a Toonie' and it involves having collection jars at the arena and other locations in Burk's Falls where people are asked to drop spare change into the jars. Hope says the drive is now underway at the arena and will soon spread to other parts of town.

A new score clock will cost about $15,000 while the cost to replace the Zamboni runs from $105,000 to $140,000.

“These are expensive so instead of having a lot of weight on the budget in three or four years, we're starting to ask the public and advertisers now to help us out,” Hope said.

The mayor says the hope is the heaviest contributors will be the people and groups who use the arena most often. In addition to the jars, the municipality will also set up an online site where people can donate amounts like $5 or $10. Hope adds there may also be public fundraising events to help the collection process.

The score clock still works but Hope says “that's the best time to start planning to replace it”.

“This way there are no budget surprises,” Hope said. “And later people can take pride in knowing they were part of the group that helped keep the arena modern.”

Graham Smith is the arena manager and he says the score clock is 15 to 20 years old.

“It still has the screw-in light bulbs,” Smith said. “We'll be replacing it with LEDS.  That will save us on hydro plus the LEDS are more efficient to run and operate.”

As for the Zamboni, Smith says it's into its 14th season of operating. Smith says typically a normal lifespan for a Zamboni is 10 to 12 years.

“So we've already exceeded that,” he said.

The Zamboni is currently in Brantford where its engine is being replaced. The unit is also getting some smaller parts repaired or upgraded and the conditioner, which does things like shave the ice and pick up snow, is being rebuilt.

“This could extend the life of the Zamboni for another five to 10 years,” Smith said.

Smith said he had a Zamboni technician evaluate the unit last summer who found staff had maintained the unit so well over the years that all it required was the new engine and a few upgrades. Smith says the Burk's Falls Zamboni is a very heavily used machine.

“Our season doesn't just run from September to March,” he said. “We also run it for our summer programs and this period is a much busier time for the Zamboni.  In fact, 50 percent of our ice rentals come just from summer alone.”

Smith says when it comes time to replace the existing Zamboni, town council will have to decide either on an electric or propane gas-powered unit. Burk's Falls currently uses a propane gas Zamboni. Smith says both types have their pros and cons. For example, a propane-powered Zamboni is cheaper to buy at around $105,000 but then there is the future maintenance to consider.

Alternatively, the battery-powered electric units can cost upwards of $140,000.

“So they are very expensive upfront but since they have no engine, that saves on engine maintenance costs in the future,” Smith said. “These are a couple of things the council will have to consider in the future.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.