Houghton Cnty Arena needs new ice plant

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette David Hermanson, president of the Portage Lake Multi-Educational Services, looks at the current ice plant at the Houghton County Arena, which uses a type of freon being phased out. The PLMES board is considering options to replace the plant, including an ammonia-based system.

HANCOCK — The ice plant in the Houghton County Arena works fine, but the chemical used to freeze water to make the surface for the ice rink is about to become unavailable, according to David Hermanson.

Hermanson is president of the Portage Lake Multi-Educational Services, which manages the arena. He said the R-22 freon the ice plant uses to make ice is being phased out by the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 2020 because of negative environmental concerns.

The current ice plant was installed in 2000, Hermanson said, and it hasn’t had any serious problems in that time.

“It’s performed well over the years,” he said.

However, Hermanson said because the R-22 freon will soon be unavailable, the PLMES board is looking at alternative systems, including an ice plant which uses ammonia to freeze water.

The Calumet Colosseum in Calumet, the Dee Stadium in Houghton and the Michigan Technological University MacInnes Ice Arena in Houghton all use an ammonia-based ice plant, Hermanson said.

Water is placed on the surface of the ice rink floor, and pipes under the floor are frozen, which causes the water on the floor to freeze.

Hermanson said an ammonia-based system will cost about $265,000, so the PLMES board is carefully looking over options and asking for professional guidance for choosing a system.

“We want to make sure we’re getting it right,” he said.

The PLMES is currently fundraising to make improvements at the arena, including getting a new ice plant, replacing the wooden bleachers with aluminum bleachers, and getting a dehumidifier to reduce humidity.

“We’re still optimistic the fundraising is going to be a success,” he said.

To donate for the upgrades at the Houghton County Arena, go online to houghtoncountyarena.com.