ALPENA - The Northern Lights Arena was constructed with the purpose to provide people in the county an opportunity to participate in recreational activities outside of ice-related events. The facility, which is more than a decade old, is still searching for ways to improve the options for those who may not skate.
Alpena County, on behalf of NLA, is submitting four funding requests for arena programming, as well as infrastructure additions, to the youth and recreation, and older person's committees. One of the requests is for a special field turf, which could be utilized during the non-ice periods of the year for activities such as soccer, volleyball and practices for football and baseball teams. Arena Manager Denny Dacey said if the funding for the removable turf is granted, it will allow the area to make better use of rink two when ice is not in place.
"We only have both sheets of ice running full-time five months out of the year, so we have one sheet that is just sitting there after the ice is gone. I want to make it clear we are not closing rink two, but this would allow us to have users play soccer, lacrosse, a golfing setup, archery or whatever," Dacey said. "The turf is portable and is held in place with strong Velcro, and when you need to take it down, it just rolls up and store it and put the ice back in."
The turf, which initial quotes indicate the cost to be from $40,000- $80,000, is durable and designed to handle the stress of running and sliding in cleats. Dacey said if you consider that it won't be used all year, it should last well beyond what the producers of it guarantee.
"There is actually an eight-year warranty on the turf and the glue portion of it," Dacey said. "That is for a full year of use, but we wouldn't be doing that, so we anticipate we would be able to get several more out of it."
Because of the materials, it also can provide comfort for people who do a lot of walking or standing at some of the events currently held on the concrete floor.
"Another neat thing is you're not going to have to take it away for things like the home builder's show and other events," Dacey said. "In fact the people will probably appreciate it more because they will be standing on carpet instead of the concrete. So we can utilize it for almost everything we do now, and add a lot of other things during the ice's down time. We're a multi-purpose facility and this would add purpose."
The other funding request to the youth and recreation committee is for replacement of about 100 pairs of ice skates, which are rented at the arena. Dacey said the skates currently being used were purchased when the facility opened. He said many of the blades are worn down to the point they can't be sharpened any longer, and others are more of a hindrance to the people using them than a benefit.
The final request is for money to initiate a spinoff of the "Ready, Set, Swim" program that would be called "Ready, Set, Skate." It would allow area youth to visit the arena and spend time on the ice with volunteers helping them learn to skate. Dacey said he believes the program would be beneficial to the user groups as well, because if the child enjoyed the activity, they may continue to skate and possibly give hockey, figure skating or speed skating a chance.
The final request to the older person's committee is for funds that would allow the arena to provide discounts and other incentives to use or attend events at the rink.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.