Local arena in need of repairs

HOUGHTON — After 40 years, the Houghton County Arena continues to be a focal point for the community, but upgrades are needed.

It’s home to several hockey teams, including Finlandia University, two high school teams, junior hockey, and even the Keweenaw Roller Girls roller derby team. And that’s just a few of the events that are held at the Houghton County Arena.

Built in the 1970’s, the arena started with a natural ice surface with a roof over it until artificial ice was introduced a couple of years later.

Dave Hermanson, President of the Portage Lake Multi–Educational Services, Inc., said, “Fast forward forty years from there, and about $2 million–plus of investments in this building; whether it be by grants, there some bonding, a lot of volunteer labor that went into this place, a lot of public donations, we’ve got a beautiful facility and we’re very passionate about it.”

The facility is starting to show its age in places. The roof is original and needs to be replaced, the steel support beams are rusting and flaking over the ice, the bleachers need to be brought up to code and made handicap accessible. But the biggest issue is the ice making equipment. The arena uses a Freon coolant called R–22, a gas that has been banned by the EPA.

While the current system has been grandfathered in, the supply of R–22 will run out soon so arena management is looking into installing an ammonia based system.

It’s unclear what the cost of the upgrades will be, but the value of the arena to the community is certain.

Hermanson said, “We’ve got all these teams coming in here that are staying in the hotels, buying gas, going to the bars and restaurants, we’ve got the Fair people coming in here—a lot of things going on so it’s really vital to the community.”

The source of the funding still needs to be determined, but the money will have to come from somewhere to preserve the arena for the generations to come.

Hermanson said, “We want this thing to be here for another forty years for our grandchildren and beyond.”