Mother Nature recently shared her
wintry mix with the Tri-Cities, but the Three Rivers campus wants to be able to
create its own ice year-round.
Construction of a new $3.4 million ice
plant is underway at the Kennewick campus, which is home to the Toyota Center,
Toyota Arena and Three Rivers Convention Center.
The Toyota Center is home to the
Tri-City Americans hockey team, while the arena is used by amateur hockey
teams, public skating, Zamboni school and a figure skating club. The center and
arena have ice-making equipment, but Corey Pearson, executive director of
VenuWorks, said business is being held hostage by the 30-year-old ice system.
“There was a new chiller put in about
20 years ago, but the system is outdated, so we’re replacing all that
equipment,” Pearson said. “During a (Tri-City Americans) game last year, a
couple of shiny lines showed up on the ice. You lose a hockey game or two
(because equipment is down), and it hurts. With new equipment, we’ll be able to
save that sheet of ice and operate no matter what happens.”
VenuWorks is contracted by the city of
Kennewick and the Kennewick Public Facilities District to manage the facilities
on the Three Rivers campus.
VenuWorks hired KDA of Yakima to
design the 30-by-70-foot building. Kennewick-based O’Brien Construction Co. is
the general contractor. Pearson is the project lead.
Oregon-based Apcco will provide and
install refrigeration equipment.
Construction began in December and was
ahead of schedule until the cold snap at the beginning of February slowed down
“The masonry walls were three quarters
up but they had to stop when it got cold,” Pearson said. “It’s scheduled to be
done in June.”
Once completed, the building will
house a system that will create and maintain ice in the arena and center. There
also will be room to add a compressor, which would cost an additional $100,000
but would allow for operation of a third rink.
“So if we ever need to expand, we can
take care of it right there,” Pearson said.
The cost to operate the current system
runs about $14,000 a month. By upgrading to more efficient equipment, he
expected the bill to be significantly reduced.
“We’re still waiting on the numbers to
come in, but it looks like it will cut the bill in half,” he said.
The project, which includes design and
construction, is funded by the city of Kennewick’s capital budget.
Along with lower maintenance costs, the
quality of the ice will improve. Poor equipment leads to warm spots on the
surface of the ice, and Pearson said those spots can be harder to scrape and
smooth down. Pockets in the ice can cause safety issues for skaters.
Amateur hockey player Brian Mashburn
said it also can affect the way the puck moves in a game.
“During games, there can be puddles in
the ice that aren’t freezing. Just like in soccer, water can cause the puck to
stop or slow down. It makes for bad game play,” said Mashburn, who’s said he’s
excited about the improvements. “The staff works hard to make it the best they can,
and we’re thankful for them.”
Before the new ice plant project,
Pearson said workers replaced all of the old lighting, upgrading to a fully
programmable LED light system in 2018 at a cost of about $400,000.
“We can change colors and lights
instantly, and dim them from zero to 100. It’s changed the atmosphere,” said
Pearson, who believes these types of improvements can make a big difference in
attendance. “We feel like attendance has gone up. It’s hard to tell with games,
but we’ve had more games sell out or come close than we have in quite a few
years,” he said.
The next project on the horizon is to
replace the video board at the Toyota Center. Right now, the board being used
is not for video but for text, and if parts fail or break, they have to send it
out to be refurbished.
“That’s because they’re not making
parts anymore. It’s antiquated,” he said.
New video boards have better pixel
pitch, which is the density of LED clusters on a display and correlates with
VenuWorks has yet to ask for bids for
the new video board. He expects it to cost about $750,000 to $900,000.
The Kennewick City Council still will
need to approve the expenditure, but Pearson hopes to have it installed this
summer after the new ice plant is up and running.
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!