Big Mine Arena gets go ahead for large events
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
District wants this to be a short-term solution

Get ready to party with 499 of your closest friends at the Big Mine Ice Arena this summer. An inexpensive solution has been reached that will allow the facility to hold groups larger than 300 people, which was the limit under the town building code unless a fire suppression system was installed.
The Crested Butte town staff and Fire Protection District board of directors reached a compromise whereby 500 people will be allowed in the rink for summer events under a so-called “fire watch” that is part of a public safety plan developed with each proposed occasion.


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 The Fire Protection District board passed a resolution last week acknowledging the small risk involved at the open-air steel and concrete structure and authorized the town and fire code officials to come up with a plan for each event that addresses specific safety concerns based on the anticipated size of the crowd, the type of event and materials being brought into the venue. The resolution stated the temporary fix would expire November 1, 2013 and it encouraged the town to make the investment in the necessary sprinkler system if the town wanted to continue holding high-occupancy events in the facility.
A sprinkler system would cost an estimated $117,000 or so. But several local groups petitioned the town to allow larger events in the space, given the nature of its construction.
The Crested Butte Music Festival used it for a gala last August but capped attendance at 299. The Town Council has directed its staff to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado planning grant this year that will develop a master plan recommendation for the site.
In the meantime, the town code allows for the implementation of a “fire watch” to bypass the need for sprinklers. Under the rules agreed to by the town and fire district, the maximum occupancy would go to 500 people. Two fire watch personnel and two crowd control managers would have to be on site during large events. Fire extinguishers, bullhorns and a radio phone to the fire department will have to be onsite. Event organizers will have to pay for the increased costs. The fee for using the facility is also likely to go up from $300 to $500 for a one-day event.
“I am very pleased that the town and fire district worked together so well and so fast to accomplish this,” said Town Council member Shaun Matusewicz. “This will open up some things and that is a great step forward.”