04/08/2013 12:10 EDT | Updated 06/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Doomed historic arena could be spared the wrecking ball

A storied arena in Saint-Lambert that was scheduled to be demolished today, could get a last-minute reprieve.

The provincial government is asking the city to wait before bringing in the wrecking ball.

The Eric Sharp arena was built for Expo 67 and features a rustic cedar roof that has become a pivotal part of the rink's identity

But the aging building needs significant renovations.

The city says it would cost just as much to build a new, modern rink as it would to spare the old one.

"The building is 47-years-old —it has aged poorly," said Saint-Lambert Mayor Philippe Brunet.

"We've had two [recent] ammonia leaks. It has come to the end of its useful life."

The arena was scheduled to be torn down and replaced by a new $10.8 million facility.

But many in the community say the Eric Sharp Arena deserves a second chance because of its historical value.

People opposing the demolition started a petition in an attempt to buy some more time to save the building.

They pointed to hockey stars Louis Bégin and Boston Bruins coach Steve Kasper, both of whom once played under its cedar roof, and the multitude of commercials that have been filmed at the arena because of its unique architecture.

Quebec's order of architects wrote to the province to push for the preservation of the building earlier this year.

"There's absolutely no reason why the most majestic arenas in the province of Quebec should be knocked down on the whims of the particular elected mayor and his councillors," said resident Steven Parry.

"Ultimately, this is an heirloom that we should keep here in Saint-Lambert and cherish. It is ultimately the most beautiful building in this city and it is preposterous the idea that we should tear it down."

The provincial government approved a $4.4 million loan to help the city move forward with a new rink. The rest of the money needed would come from the municipality.

Heritage designation?

But now, the provincial ministry of culture says it is studying the file and needs more time to determine if the rink should be protected under cultural heritage legislation.

If the minister decides to classify the building as such, control measures would be put in place to preserve certain aspects of the structure, said Danielle Dubé, spokeswoman for the ministry.

She said the results of the government's study would not be ready for at least a few more days.

Brunet said he understands the attachment to the wooden roof. The new plans include reusing of two of the beams from the current arena. The other eight would be saved for a future project.

The mayor said, right now, only those who use the arena can see the ceiling and he'd like them to have a more visible use in the community.

He also said it comes down to capacity.

The new facility, "would be open 12 months a year versus the current seven and a half months a year, and that's a big plus," he said.

The City of Saint-Lambert had ordered its own study of the arena, but has refused to make the results of that study public.