HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — There’s good news and bad news for sports fans with mobility issues who frequent the E.J. Broomfield Memorial Arena in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The bad news is that, because the wheelchair ramp at the arena wasn’t up to current building codes, officials with the town had to remove it from the building.
While it’s unfortunate the ramp was removed just prior to the Labrador Cup soccer tournament that took place recently, the good news is that the town has been successful in seeking funding ($900,000) for upgrades to the arena. A new ramp is now among the plans when the upgrades take place.
However, in speaking about the situation, Janet Warr from Happy Valley-Goose Bay said she wonders why the ramp had to be removed just before the big soccer tournament.
“Why would they take the ramp? They’re saying it wasn’t up to code, but it hasn’t been up to code for the past 15 years,” she said during a phone interview on May 28.
Warr has been going to the arena for decades to see her children and now her grandchildren play soccer and hockey.
It’s only since she’s had two hip replacements that mobility has been an issue for her.
Warr has been using a wheelchair since December 2016.
“Last year, at the Lab Cup, there were four or five of us there in wheelchairs,” Warr said referring to the popular competitive indoor soccer tournament that takes place at the arena late May/early June every year.
Warr said she was told there wouldn’t be a ramp at the arena for the Labrador Cup this year — the tournament ended June 3.
Warr said as long as she has her walker and there’s a rail available, she can use it to help herself along, or if she has some assistance from a family member, she will manage to get up over the few steps and then get to sit and see the action.
However, she worries about people who can’t get out of their wheelchairs.
When contacted about the situation, the town’s engineer Randy Dillon confirmed that the ramp has been removed from the building.
The town had no choice but to do so, he said, as numerous safety issues were identified including the fact that the ramp was about three times steeper than it should have been.
“When the town became aware that the ramp didn’t meet the national building code nor the building accessibility regulations... in the interest of safety of anybody who is mobility impaired, we had to take the ramp off,” Dillon said.
The $900,000 in funding earmarked for building upgrades at the arena is coming from the New Building Canada Fund – a federal/provincial/municipal partnership.
Although the town wasn’t aware of the ramp issues when it applied for the funding, Dillon said the ramp and wheelchair seating is one of the items that will be addressed in the upcoming arena project.
Dillon said an engineering consultant will be commissioned for the project.
He also suggested that, while the ramp is no longer in place, people with mobility issues have access to a lift which can take them upstairs and into a room that overlooks the action at the arena.
Warr said she’s not interested in watching the play while separated from other spectators.
“And half of the Cup is socializing with people,” she added.
When contacted during the tournament, a determined Warr said, thanks to help from her daughters, she was able to get up over the steps and sit where she usually does to enjoy the soccer games and to socialize with family and friends.