Business good during summer at NLA

ALPENA – Northern Lights Arena is winding down its summer schedule and preparing the rink for its busiest time of the year, and it appears business at the arena was good during the warm weather months.

The Northern Lights Arena-Community decided to keep one of the two sheets of ice open throughout the summer in an attempt to attract local and out-of-town skaters to the facility. Arena Manager Meg Richey said she considers this summer a success in terms of the amount of ice rented and the number of people attending events.

“We knew that there were risks with having it open year around, but I think for the first summer it went pretty well. We had some events, programming and some hockey teams from downstate for a retreat, so we are hoping to grow these programs,” Richey said. “Believe it or not I think we managed to stay on budget, which is all we really want to do. I think the board is pretty happy with how things went.”

Richey said the NLA-C board will look at all of the numbers next year and decide if a rink will be open next summer. She said she believes as people become aware the ice is available in the summer, more people will utilize it.

“The management team and the board will evaluate everything in the spring, but for the most part things went well,” Richey said. “I think the locals still have to get used to remembering that there is ice to use in the summer and events designed to utilize it. That doesn’t happen overnight and so far it hasn’t been consistent. Consistency is important and I think will help bring more people here to use the arena.”

There are two events coming in the next month that should help add to the attendance numbers and fundraising effort. On Sept. 10 there is the Drop the Top for Northern Lights Area Jeep and 4×4 Jamboree/Poker Run. Jeep enthusiasts and those having other types of four-wheel drive vehicles will be treated to the poker run, lunch, an open skate and live entertainment. On Sept. 27, comedian/magician Chris Lin will perform for an all-age concert. Richey said because there already is ice in place there is no rush to make more on rink one and as a result these events can take place on it. She said right now it appears ice will not be made on the main rink until the beginning of October.

“Right now we are in the middle of hockey and figure skating registration and they won’t start until October, so right now the one sheet will continue to work fine,” Richey said.

The arena also has entered into an agreement with Alpena Public Schools that will allow first-graders to visit the arena and learn to ice skate.

“Every first-grader in town will be participating in a Ready, Set, Skate Program. We have had the summer learn-to-skate program, but this is new and should go over well and help a lot of young children learn to skate,” Richey said. “The Community Foundation gave us about $2,000 for new helmets and skate aids and we’re really excited to start that program in September.”

As always, maintenance is key to the success of the arena. A new water heater was installed in the rear of the building and closer to where the Zamboni fills up. Maintenance Manager Jeremy Winterstein said the new water heater will save money on utility costs.

“A platform was built to put the new hot water system on and a few of the last connections are being made now,” Winterstein said. “We have had to have the hot water pumped from the front of the rink to the back and it was more costly and affected the temperature. By having the new heater where it is now, it will be more efficient and cheaper for us.”

For more information about NLA and a schedule of events log onto www.northernlightsarena.com

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.