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Temporary ice rink option examined

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2011

Juneau’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee on Tuesday evening examined an option for a temporary ice rink at Marine Park Plaza.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

PRAC member Chris Mertl researched a kind of temporary rink that uses chill mats. He said back when Marine Park Plaza was being designed, it was intended for year-round community use and the idea of ice skating was proposed then. To date, that hasn't been realized. Given Juneau's fluctuating temperatures in winter, a method of keep ice frozen is necessary. Mertl said the plaza is designed to be flooded for an ice rink.

"I'm not proposing we (flood) the whole thing," Mertl said. "That's far too much."

Mertl showed slides of different small outdoor rinks all over the United States — some have side walls and hand rails, others have decorated Christmas trees in the center and all sheets of ice varied in size.

He suggested a rink size of 120 feet by 60 feet up to 120 feet by 75 feet.

The portable rink features chill mats, which have PVC pipe running through them, which are kept cold by a trailer-mounted chiller. They can be rolled up and stored. Mertl said the life expectancy of this system is about 20 years.

Mertl said once the mats are set up they're flooded with water and it takes about two days for the ice to set.

Set-up and construction costs for the portable rink would range from $232,000 to $262,000, depending on size. Operational costs would be separate.

A rink larger than 120 feet by 75 feet would require a larger chilling unit, which would in turn drive up the price. Mertl said a 200-foot-by-75-foot rink would cost about $450,000. The ice surface at Treadwell Arena is 200 feet by 85 feet, the same as an NHL rink, according to Thomas McKenzie, a recreational activity leader at Treadwell.

Mertl talked to companies in Toronto, Wisconsin, Michigan and California and all had similar cost ranges.

When showing the slides from other towns who had a chiller system, some of the wallboards had business advertising. Mertl said that could be an option if they decided to move forward.

"The community desire was not to have hockey there," Mertl said of the plaza location. "I'm not saying you’re not going to have a couple kids with a puck and a stick in the corner. We could probably get some music out there — there could be something fun over the Christmas holiday. We have to get personnel involved in this and we have to look and see if its achievable."

Parks and Recreation Director Marc Matsil wasn't so optimistic because of the operational costs. He said they use a chiller at the Treadwell Ice Arena and have a $9,000 per month utility bill. Matsil said Kenai has an outdoor rink like this and they pay $30,000 a month in utility costs. He didn't know the size of their rink.

"We just don’t have that kind of money budgeted," he said. "In order to basically make it more usable, it would need a cover on it and we would need the walls to reduce the wind."

Matsil said in an interview Wednesday that maintenance costs need to be considered — shoveling snow off the rink and other personnel duties. He said weather has the potential to make it impractical as well, since it's a fairly windy area. Matsil said people likely wouldn't use it much if it weren't covered by some sort of structure due to the rain.

"We’ve got a whole suite of priorities right now," he said. "With our fairly lean staff, we just don’t have the capability of maintaining it."

Mertl said at Tuesday's meeting the Downtown Business Association was supportive of the idea of a temporary outdoor rink downtown.

PRAC did not take action on the issue as it was an informational item.

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/hGY2Oa .

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.



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