While Saturday appeared normal inside the East Hants Sportsplex arena, it was far from a normal scene at the attached soccer field, which has been sidelined indefinitely after a dome cover collapsed during a storm on Thursday evening.
"There was a sag in the dome that was consistent with the weight, and at approximately 10 o’clock, they let me know that the dome had collapsed,” says East Hants Sportsplex executive director, Scott Forward. “As they could tell at that point, it looked like it had suffered a tear."
No one was hurt during the collapse, as the dome had been closed earlier that evening. However, the repair process could take a while.
In March 2018, the dome collapsed during a nor'easter and was closed for nearly two months. Considering Thursday’s damage was far worse compared to the 2018 collapse, the dome does not have a predicted reopening date.
"This tear would probably be about four to five times the size of that one,” says Forward. “It runs from one side of the facility to the other, which is approximately 250-feet."
All events inside the dome have been cancelled until further notice – an unfortunate circumstance for soccer players who frequent its field.
"We've got over 200 kids and about 150 adults that play soccer in that dome during the winter on a weekly basis,” says East Hants Soccer Club president, Rob Thomas. “So, without the facility, we're going to have to cancel some of those programs."
And changes are already in place. What would have been a home game for the East Hants Soccer Club is now taking place at an indoor field in Dartmouth – nearly 30 minutes away. Thomas says the incident has caused him to rush to reschedule games and practices. He notes the situation speaks to a lack of indoor playing fields in the region.
"There's only two or three facilities in the Halifax region,” says Thomas. “There's us, BMO Centre and here at East Coast Varsity. So then you're looking at the valley or Stellarton – so there's not a lot of facilities for indoor soccer."
Aside from soccer, the dome was also home to baseball, football, rugby and Frisbee programs, as well as a popular walking track which many say they’ll miss for the time being.
"I know a lot of seniors in the community use the track on a daily basis, especially at this time of year when the sidewalks are icy,” says East Hants resident, Melissa Withrow. “I know it's going to affect not only the athletes and young people in the community but also an older generation that uses it daily."
With the dome being a popular fixture in the community, Forward says the closure will impact the community at large.
“Typically, we're booked solid Monday to Friday from 5:30 to 9:30 at night; and on the weekend, we’re at about 75% capacity – so it's going to be a major impact to our user groups."
Forward says that he is in contact regularly with operators of other domes and notes collapses happen occasionally. However, he adds it’s difficult to regain confidence in the structure after another collapse, which has resulted in what is expected to be a long and costly repair process.
Forward says repair workers will first need to patch and raise the dome to fully assess the extent of the damage before they can have the facility operational once again. Members of the community say they hope that is sooner than later, as the collapse has meant the loss of a key athletic facility in the community.