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City moves with improvements

Howelsen Ice Arena appealing to a number of residents

Avi Salzman

— Soon after the city completed a financing package on an upgrade to the ice rink earlier this year, the refrigeration system gave out and the ice sheet became a slushy mess. Now, more skaters than ever have learned to glide on the glassy surface at the newly renovated Howelsen Ice Arena and the city is pushing ahead with scheduled improvements.

Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson presented an update on the arena to the City Council on Tuesday.

The new rink, financed to the tune of $3 million by the city with the private sector pledging $500,000 in cash and $200,000 in in-kind services, has served 45 percent more skaters in the rink’s first winter session than last year. The upgrade is already saving the city money on the cost of utilities because of a more efficient refrigeration system, among other things. The new refrigeration system needs only six hours of juice to keep the ice hard all day, as opposed to the old system, which needed to be switched on for about twice that time.

Over the year to date, the city is saving $24,000 from its 2001 budget on utilities both because of the new system and a later opening date, Wilson said.

“I’m excited to see our utility bills are showing (large savings) based on the new system,” Wilson said.

The rink has also seems to have become an appeal to novices who want to learn.

Last year, the city served 331 people at its arena, but this year that number has risen to 479.

The higher number of new skaters includes an influx of “learn to skate” participants, which city staff members say is part of their plan to introduce the public to skating and ensure a strong future for the arena.

By late December, spectators at the arena will be able to sit in heated bleachers that can accommodate 680 people, Wilson said.

The next phase of the project has already been submitted to the city planning department and will encompass a lobby, concession area, skate rental, offices and multipurpose room in a two-story log-sided building.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203

or e-mail asalzman@steamboatpilot.com


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