ALPENA - In 2010, the Multi-Purpose Arena Coalition kept ice at the Northern Lights Arena throughout the summer months, but after a change in management, it has not been done since. Now the new management group, Northern Lights Arena-Community, is going to take another crack at selling year around ice.
Although the effort to offer indoor skating during the warm weather months in 2010 lost a little money, it provided individuals and teams an opportunity to utilize the ice when normally they couldn't.
NLA Manager Meg Richey said it's been the group's intentions to keep rink two open after the other is taken down from the beginning. She said it was part of the group's presentation to the Alpena County Board of Commissioners and believes the public will be supportive of the increased availability of ice.
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Hockey teams and other ice skaters will be able to use rink two (pictured) throughout the summer, as arena management has decided to keep one sheet of ice in place year around.
"The ice on rink one will come down Tuesday but rink two is scheduled to stay open the remainder of the year. The plan isn't to bring it down at all," Richey said. "We believe that we are an ice rink. People in the community want to skate and we can provide that for them. Last year we had people driving to Gaylord to skate, so there is no reason that if people want to skate, that we can't provide that service."
In 2010 M-PAC established ice prices at $110 per hour believing the low cost would drive up demand. In the end the move fell just short of breaking even. Jeremy Winterstein was the manager of the arena then and is currently the maintenance manager.
He said this time ice fees will drop from $190 to $150 an hour during the spring and summer. Winterstein said much was learned from the last time year round ice was offered and that changes to the facility itself should make it simpler to not lose money.
"The price was a little less then and we didn't have as big of a commitment for ice purchases in advance as we do this time," Winterstein said. "The energy savings we are receiving from the upgrades to the rink will also help. Normally we only shut the rink down for 65 days. It was a real short window of time the ice is off anyway and the cost isn't that much more to leave it up than tearing it down and putting it up again in two months. Last time we didn't miss the mark by much and this time I believe we learned from it."
At this point there are two eight-team hockey tournaments scheduled for July and possibly another in August. Richey said there also will be other events that members of the community can enjoy.
"We will continue to host the glow skate, our Learn to Skate program and other open skates and programs," Richey said. "Rink one will at the same time we have a car show in May, and a circus in June. There will also be some archery tag and other activities we are hoping to have while the ice is on the other rink."
The NLA-C also is working closely with the Alpena Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the DDA and the chamber of commerce to explore ways each can support one another. Richey said attracting people to Alpena could add a revenue boost to the arena, as well as the other businesses.
"We are all trying to come up with some marketing strategies or mini campaigns where we can market to the tourists and let them know that this place is here and open," Richey said. "Sometimes people are looking for something a little different to do while visiting and we can offer that. Maybe they would like to take a break and come in, cool off and spend some time as a family ice skating. We just need to figure out how we can get the word out to these people."
The arena is going to have a unique event to close the ice season for rink one on Monday. There will be a St. Patrick's Days, End of Season Bash from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The ice on the rink will be turned green to mark the holiday. For more information on this event and others log into www.northernlightsarena.com.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com