ALPENA - Northern Lights Arena is into its peak time of year in terms of usage. It is the time when it sees a flurry of activity on and off the ice and also the time when it generates the bulk of its revenue for the entire year.
It also is the first prime ice season for the new management group, Northern Lights Arena-Community, and according to Manager Meg Richey, operations and business at the arena are strong.
Richey said the first sheet of ice was made on rink one in early September and ice use and rental began slow, but has picked up significantly once winter sports began. She said it is difficult to tell if ice rental is ahead or behind the last several years because the information she needs to compare numbers was not forwarded to her by the rink's former manager.
She said she is forced to use number dating back three years or more from when the Multi-Purpose Arena Coalition operated the arena. She said when looking at those numbers ice rental might be lagging a little. Richey said all things considered, she is pleased with how well things are going.
"We began to see a few skaters in October and it really ramped up in November. This place has been busy," Richey said. "I think the numbers should be close to what we have had previously and I'm happy with how things are going."
Richey said about 98 percent of past sponsors have renewed their contracts with NLA and several new ones have been added. She said the arena currently has a staff of 11 employees and the user groups have been receptive to a volunteer incentive that was instituted to provide rental discounts based on the hours people volunteer at the facility.
Richey said she is surprised by the number of people who come to the rink to utilize the walking track that circles rink one. She said allowing walking and running at the arena allows for residents who may not skate and opportunity to use the facility.
"It is amazing the number of walkers we get every day," Richey said. "We have people of all ages, but I would say a majority of them are seniors and most are from Alpena County. We have even had the track team come and practice."
Earlier in the year NLA-C hosted several first-time events. Richey said a pair of the events drew a good crowd, while the third wasn't as successful.
"We had a good turnout for the roller derby and it was a blast, so I think we may try to do that again next year," Richey said. "The wrestling event went well, but I'm not sure that we'll have them back or not. I'm just not sure if it was the right fit, but we would never have known unless we tried and we did. The outdoor extravaganza was a great event and we will be doing something similar next year.
Richey said the 2014 event schedule is still in the process of being finalized and she said there will be events and attractions for everyone. She said it should be complete and released in the next four to six weeks.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.