ALPENA - The Multi-Purpose Arena Coalition played a large role in helping make the Northern Lights Arena become a reality. More importantly, however, is the direct part it plays in helping children in skating groups learn to skate, and be able to afford to partake in ice skating activities. Now that it has been replaced from the day-to-day operations of the arena, the coalition is exploring what its new direction will be. According to M-PAC president Jeff Konczak, the group promises to continue to help provide funding for the children.
"Aside from the operations of the rink, M-PAC operations have been business as usual," Konczak said. "We took a month off as a board to sort of regroup, re-energize and to think about what our future mission holds for us, but we will continue to fundraise and support our user groups and the kids. The money we raise will go directly to the groups and the kids. Those things won't change. We will continue to operate as we have, we just won't operate the rink."
Konczak said the group realizes the goals and direction will change due to the fact the user groups aren't involved in the decision making on the business aspect of the NLA. He said the M-PAC board, which is made up of members from all of the user groups, will soon decide how they can be the most effective.
"The board is going to start its visioning sessions so we can really put in place a road map, because the old one has changed a little bit, we have different tasks on a daily basis, but we still need to generate dollars," Konczak said. "The number of kids participating in hockey and the other activities are dropping, and it is due to the economy and how expensive it is. The money we raise will help not only first time skaters but hopefully defray some of the cost it takes for the kids to play."
During Alpena County's process to explore operational changes at the arena, many feelings were hurt, egos bruised, and bridges burned. Konczak said financial stability is the only way the NLA can continue to serve the community. He said because a new management group has taken over, it is going to be important for the public and the county commissioners to closely monitor the finances to be sure it remains profitable.
"It was war. That is what it was and there are still a lot of hurt feelings out there, because we don't believe it was the right decision, " Konczak said. "In time it will be very evident to the community whether it was the right decision or not. People need to be in tune to the details, M-PAC will be and I hope the citizens and the commissioners will be. We were profitable all the way through, and if we were the wrong vehicle and the Park Family Foundation is the right vehicle, then they should do phenomenally better than we did. I hope they are profitable and I hope they do go and do better than we did, because that would be good for everyone, but everyone needs to be watching it."
Konczak said nobody involved with M-PAC wants to see the Park Family fail, because it would deeply hurt everyone in the Alpena area.
"We are not going to wish failure on others," Konczak said. "At the end of the day that rink is an important part of the community and to our kids. It is one of the best facilities in Michigan, it brings people to Alpena who spend money and helps our economy, no matter who is running it. It has to be successful."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.