Rink readies for summer

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2003

Juneau residents eager for one more skate at the Treadwell Arena should lace up now. The ice will disappear at the end of the month to make way for in-line skating, tennis and basketball, city Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said.

"Sunday the 27th is the last day," she said. "It's a couple-of-week process to turn off the refrigeration, break the ice and take it out. At that point, we'll have a schedule for the summer that will go from May through August."

The ice will be back by Sept. 15 for another season of skating, she said.

The Treadwell Arena in Douglas, which opened in February, has seen large and enthusiastic crowds during its first 10 weeks of operation. The city had billed the rink as a seasonal facility, but Mayor Sally Smith said she can't get through the grocery store these days without hearing about summer ice skating.

"This is the hottest sport in town," she said at a meeting Wednesday about summer operations.

The question is one of finances, Kiefer said. It costs more to refrigerate a rink in the summer and attendance is expected to go down, which is why the city will open the arena to tennis and basketball instead of ice hockey this year, she said.

"Our numbers are starting to go down the last couple of weeks with people getting their boats ready, softball and gardening," she said.

More than 18,200 people skated at the Treadwell Arena between Feb. 6 and April 13, bringing in $63,302 in revenue. Another $25,641 in rental revenue will be collected by the end of the fiscal year, according to Parks and Recreation.

About 2,300 people skated at the rink the first full week in operation compared to 1,200 during the second week in April. The first weekend, the arena saw 300 people at one open skate, but only three people showed up at an open skate during last weekend's sunny weather, Kiefer said.

The city isn't ruling out a summer skate in the future, but wants more experience running the rink before making that decision, Kiefer said.

"At this time next year, we'll have a year's worth of data, which will really help us," she said. "It's different from the pool, where you have a constant - the outside temperature doesn't affect it. (The arena) is impacted by the outside temperature."

The city spent $15,803 on electricity and another $9,800 on propane and heating fuel through March of this year at Treadwell Arena, Kiefer said. Electricity costs were $2,671 in December and $4,787 in March. The electricity costs are close to estimates, she said.

Participation in skating and hockey programs also has been zealous. Juneau Douglas Ice Association President Ken Collison said 165 young people participated in the group's youth hockey program. The association also ran two five-week Learn-To-Skate sessions, with 150 participants each time.

"They were both filled; we had to turn people away," he said.

While the JDIA hasn't lobbied actively for summer ice, it would have people lined up for summer hockey school if the city opened the arena for a few weeks, Collison said.

"I've lived in places where they've had hockey since creation and skating since creation and they normally close in the spring and open a few weeks in the summer for summer school," he said. "Kids enjoy all-day skating schools and it's fun to do during the summer."

Treadwell's first three months

• The Treadwell Arena generated $63,302 in revenue its first 10 weeks in operation. More than 18,200 people skated at the rink from Feb. 6 to

April 13.

• The ice rink will shut down for the season April 27. The Juneau Adult Hockey Association's championship games are scheduled that evening, and the public is invited.

• The arena will be open for basketball, tennis and in-line skating this summer. The rink's boards will be left up for in-line hockey. Ice skating will start again in mid-September.

• The rink has two Easter open skates today from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. and from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m.

• For more information and a complete schedule, visit the city's Web site at www.juneau.org/parksrec/icerink.

Randy Rice, an instructor and coordinator with the Learn-To-Skate program, also sees demand for a summer skate camp in the future. And he expects JDIA to request more ice time next fall.

"We anticipate moving to a full-blown program," he said. "Next year, in addition to Learn-To-Skate, we'll have figure skating, beginning ice dancing, and probably a precision (figure skating) class, stroking and conditioning - power skating."

Chris Mertl, a board member with the Juneau Adult Hockey Association, said he understands the summer break.

"I can't speak for everyone who plays, and there are some players who want to have it open in the summer," he said. "I personally think it's healthy to do other things. It makes it more exciting when it reopens in the autumn. ... But to be honest, if it opened in the summer and the city wanted to keep it open, I'd be there."

JAHA has had 135 players, ages 18 to 58, in two skill levels of play this year. Mertl said JAHA likely will have three groups and a women's league this fall.

"I expect the numbers to double," he said.

Dave Kovach, a JAHA board member and youth hockey coach with JDIA, said a summer hockey camp might be a draw for people from other Southeast Alaska communities in the future. For now, he's preparing for summer roller hockey at the arena.

"It will be nice because we had been playing in a basketball court that was small and didn't have boards. It was dirty sometimes," he said. "They're planning to have the boards and the nets up (in the Treadwell Arena) and it will be really nice for people."

Parks and Recreation has asked the Juneau Assembly to fund three more full-time-equivalent staff members next year at the rink to keep up with Treadwell's crowds. To offset the $135,300 cost for the new positions, the arena has suggested increasing rental costs from $100 to $150 an hour, with discounts for groups that use the rink frequently.

The new rental rates should bring another $38,500 in revenue. Current plans would leave the winter operation hours unchanged, Kiefer said.

Parks and Recreation is expecting to generate another $40,000 in advertising on the rink's boards, additional skate revenue, vending, concessions and rentals next year, Kiefer said. Former rink manager Greg Smith, who was hired last fall with the understanding he could stay only a short time, will return April 25, Kiefer said.

This summer "will be a good opportunity to do staff training, sell dasher board ads," she said. "It will be a focus time for the facility manager to look at how the operations have run and to begin making contact with the winter users on next year's schedule."

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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