Nearly 46 acres of land north of Newberry, long contaminated by industrial waste, is being repurposed into a one of a kind ice skating facility. The director of Michiganâ??s Department of Environmental Quality was on hand for Wednesdayâ??s announcement of the multi-million dollar project.
In just a few short months, this empty lot will look very different. What was once an old iron charcoal facility and brownfield will soon host the only National Hockey League-sized synthetic ice sheet in the entire country.
â??You can skate 12 months out of the year without having to refrigerate ice, which is a huge cost savingsâ?? said John Nutkins, president of the Tahquamenon Area Recreation Authority.
The synthetic ice is a solid polymer material designed for skating with normal metal-bladed skates. While experienced skaters may notice the difference, the synthetic ice has nearly 96-percent of the glide of real ice. Each synthetic panel has a 20 year warranty and does not require the treatment standard ice rinks do.
â??Well it feels like a quilting boardâ?? said Carol Anderson, Mayor of Newberry. â??So I figured instead of a Zamboni we would have to have a large iron, but I donâ??t know. Evidently that is not the way it works.â??
â??There is a demand for hockey in this areaâ?? said Dan Wyant, director of Michiganâ??s Department of Environmental Quality. â??It will draw people from not only all over the Upper Peninsula, but probably all over the Canadian and mid-west area, so this will be unique. It will put Newberry on the map and it will be one of a kind in the world.â??
Funding for the project comes from fundraising campaigns and outside grants. Cleaning up the site cost $1.9 million and the skating facility will cost $1.5 million. So far, they have raised about half of that.
â??If it is low cost and affordable and creates a recreational opportunity it will be a real win for the areaâ?? said Wyant.
Future plans for the recreation complex will include enclosing the ice rink, creating a skate park, archery range and disc golf. The cost: up to an additional million dollars.
â??To have this sort of iconic, unique facility I think will more than pay back the investment that has been madeâ?? said Wyant.
The synthetic ice rink is set to open this fall.