'Mac' upgrades moving along

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 20:00
New turf should be ready by May 2012
Work continutes at the Harry McDonald Center in Eagle River, where work to add 27,000 square feet to the facility is expected to be completed by next spring.

With the major excavation work finished, “The Mac’s” new look will soon be taking shape.

Over the next couple of weeks, crews from Palmer-based F-E Contracting Inc. will be assembling the steel for upgrades to the Harry J. McDonald Center. The longtime Chugiak-Eagle River hockey venue is in the process of adding an indoor turf field with a track and maintenance shop.

“Right now, it’s just a construction site,” said John Rodda, director of the municipal parks and recreation department. “It doesn’t have an identity.”

But, Rodda said, that’s all about to change. Once the steel is erected, the community will be able to better understand what the future Mac will look like, he said.

As with any outdoor construction job in Alaska, weather can delay a project. Fortunately, decent weather has been a bonus to crews working on the upgrade, Rodda said.

“So far, it seems to be going very well,” he said. “It’s moving forward and people are excited.”

Rodda said the project should be completed by late April or early May 2012.

“It’s all weather dependent,” he said.

Built in 1984 for $4.8 million, the Mac has seen a recent “surge” in requests for an indoor soccer field, Rodda — the facility’s former manager — told the Star in March. The expansion will add 27,000 square feet to the existing 38,000-square-foot, 700-seat venue. The Mac currently houses an Olympic-sized sheet of ice, community meeting room and a track around the rink’s perimeter.

The project has stayed on budget at about $6 million, Rodda said.

Half of the money is coming from state funds. The Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation Service Area Fund is providing $1.1 million for the work and $775,000 for interest and other revenues. The department asked the Anchorage Assembly for those funds at its March 8 meeting.

A capital mill levy approved seven years ago will supply additional funds.

Last year, the municipality spent roughly $1.1 million in modifications to the Mac, including adding energy-efficient lighting and boilers and installing radiant heat over the stands.

The Mac is named for late hockey coach Harry McDonald, who was killed in a plane crash in 1994. His son, Reid, manages the facility, which is operated by Fire Lake Arena Management Inc., a private nonprofit company.

Aside from a few “minor changes,” construction has run smoothly, Rodda said.

“Most often with construction you get surprises when you start digging because it’s always an unknown,” he said.

But that hasn’t been the case with the Mac, Rodda said. The site has good soil for the project, he said.

“It’s on solid ground,” Rodda said. “There have been no major issues.”

Rodda said he’s happy to see the project coming to fruition and hopes crews can keep their steady construction pace going.

“They’re moving along and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re pretty thrilled to see it actually happen.”


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

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