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Ice equipment must last one more season: Levitt

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
August 11, 2011
— After a rough July, the ice-making equipment at the Janesville Ice Skating Center remains on thin ice.

The center is 35 years old and has outlived its equipment and roof, officials have said. Still, it must last one more season until a scheduled April rehab.


Manager Eric Levitt said he knows the city can keep the ice going, but the arena is entering its busy season. Levitt hopes activities won't be disrupted by a temporary failure.


The Janesville City Council earlier this year voted to remodel the aging facility rather than build anew. Council members were willing to spend $2 million and join forces with a private group to build a new arena.


Group members argued it made no sense to sink so much money into an aging facility.


However, the group did not meet its fundraising goal.


Council members in February voted to instead remodel the existing arena and appeared willing to spend at least $1.3 million to update its basic needs and add some amenities. The city already has borrowed $2 million for the project.


July was a troubled month at the arena with two mechanical breakdowns.


The ice would not freeze during the Janesville Jets tryouts July 7. The problem was a cracked tube in a solenoid coil, which caused a major Freon leak, Levitt said. The replacement tube, Freon and labor cost about $12,000.


On July 23, a compressor stopped running and the ice was in danger of melting once again. The city used an unreliable backup compressor to fill in, and that problem has since been solved.


"It looks like they're fixed as of right now," Levitt said this week. "It's probably a temporary fix. We're looking at doing a major renovation next spring, and we hope it (the temporary fix) takes us through next spring.


"There's things we could probably do if it doesn't make it to April," he added. "But the problems create disruptions right in the middle of the main time the center is used. I'm pretty comfortable that if anything (happens), we can make minor repairs to keep it going."


The $12,000 in repairs is minor compared to the estimated $850,000 cost of a new system, Levitt said. The new equipment will not use Freon.


Meanwhile, user groups recently met with architects from Angus Young Architects, and Levitt said the city is getting closer to making decisions on the ice arena's remodeling design.


A multi-use room that can be used for gatherings such as birthday parties is a high priority, he said. That area was eliminated in an earlier design.


The council voted to spend up to $160,000 for architectural designs. Total costs could range from $1.3 million to $3 million. Council members hope favorable bidding allows them to build more with less.


Members appeared to favor replacing the arena's mechanics but also hope to add amenities such as locker rooms, restrooms and shower facilities. They did not appear willing to spend more than $2 million.


Designs with several different options will be submitted for bids, which should be returned in February. The council will then vote on what to spend.


Levitt suggested any money left over from the $2 million the council already has borrowed could be used to buy land to build a new fire station. One option was to build a fire station at the existing ice arena site if a new arena were built elsewhere.



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