McDonald Center expected to reopen this week

Faulty valve on center’s refrigeration system forced closure


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Josh Linn paints a blue line at the McDonald Center on Saturday, Aug. 31. Linn and Sutton McDonald helped rink manager Reid McDonald paint the goal lines, blue lines and red line.

MIKE NESPER

The McDonald Center is expected to reopen this week after a faulty valve on the ice rink’s refrigeration system forced its closure this summer.

The problem was first noticed during a hockey camp run by former pro Brian Swanson of Eagle River in mid-July. A wet spot formed on the ice and never froze.

That’s not a good sign, said rink manager Reid McDonald, so he melted the ice and went to investigate.

McDonald discovered too much oil was flowing to the compressor due to a locked valve.

“It was a scary deal,” he said.

Luckily, Norm Long was there to help. Long, a maintenance worker at Sullivan Arena, found a part to fix the problem, McDonald said.

And just in time.

McDonald said he expects the rink to reopen today (Thursday, Sept. 5) or Friday, Sept. 6 — just a few days before youth hockey begins.

The hockey community was happy to hear the good news, McDonald said.

“People are stoked we’re back,” he said. “It’s never a good feeling when you’re down and supposed to be running.”

McDonald started making ice Aug. 28. With help from his son, Sutton, and Sutton’s friend Josh Linn, McDonald painted the blue lines, goal lines and red line Saturday, Aug. 31.

Due to the timing, the rink’s closure didn’t cause too much of a disruption. Although the Mustang Hockey Association did have to buy some sheets at UAA to hold tryouts, McDonald said.

Upkeep on the rink, which was built in 1983, is becoming more difficult, McDonald said.

“Every valve is almost 30 years old,” he said. “These systems are so old no one has parts anymore.”

Hopefully, that won’t be an issue much longer.

Four Municipal rinks — the Mac, Sullivan Arena, Ben Boeke and Dempsey-Anderson — are slated for upgrades over the next few years. The Freon refrigeration systems — which have performed well — are being phased out, said Director of Parks and Recreation John Rodda.

With new technology and aging rinks — all four are between three and four decades old — now is the time to make improvements, Rodda said.

The Muni hired Wisconsin-based Stevens Engineers to analyze each rink and offer its opinion on which new ice system would best suit each facility. Rodda said Stevens’ report should be out this month.

Once construction starts, the facility would be closed for about five months. Rodda’s hope is work on the rink chosen to go first will start in mid-April 2014 and be finished by mid-September.

Governor Sean Parnell has already approved state funds for the project, Rodda said, $4 million of which is slated for the Mac. Rodda said he expects the Eagle River facility to be first in line. However, nothing is set in stone, he added.

Retrofitting these old buildings is no easy task, Rodda said.

“There’s a lot to this project,” he said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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