Rebuild of Sprinker ice rink receives praise from professional skaters and public


The proposed $6.1 million rebuild of the ice rink at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway is receiving enthusiastic support from the ice skating community, including several local professionals who use it as a training facility.

 “I’m really happy and relieved that Sprinker is going to be renovated,” said Liz Mulvey, a Puyallup native who took lessons at Sprinker as a kid and since then has skated professionally with Disney on Ice and toured Europe with Holiday on Ice.

Seven-year skating pro, Liz Mulvey, still skates where she took lessons as a kid - Sprinker Recreation Center.

 “It would be a shame if Sprinker didn’t exist,” Mulvey said.  “It’s like home to me.”

 Mulvey, a seven year pro, is home for three weeks before heading off on her next skating tour, which will include ice shows aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships and a summer show in Sandusky, Ohio at the Cedar Point Theme Park.

 At an afternoon freestyle skating session at Sprinker this week, Mulvey was joined by two other Disney on Ice skaters, Jen Rubin of Tacoma and Jessica Leatham of Gig Harbor, along with a slew of other figure skaters, such as Junior competitor Alison Jeffers, of Gig Harbor.

 “It’s long overdue,” said Alison’s mother Edie, who described a recent competition at Sprinker that was hampered by orange cones on the ice indicating where rainwater was dripping down from the leaky roof.

 “Some of the leaks have forced closures for extended periods of time,” acknowledged Skip Ferrucci, the Resource Stewardship Superintendent for Pierce County.

 “We’re so happy about the rebuild,” said Carolyn Dolan, who drives from Onalaska several times each week to skate.  “Sprinker is very special to the skating community,” she said, adding, “there no other place to go.”

Jen Rubin, in white, soars while Jessica Laetham, spins during work out at Sprinker this week.

 A small group of Pierce County officials outlined the renovations to the Mountain News.

 “We’re going to do as much as we can with the money that is available,” said Michael Poier, construction division manager for the county’s Department of Facilities Management.

 Poier said that the renovation of the ice rink will be a comprehensive one, and will include a new roof, new refrigeration equipment for the ice, and a new heating system for the building.

 As Poier spoke, three white buckets were visible – lashed to girders overhead to catch rainwater sluicing through the rusty roof above.

Buckets and rust will be gone once the $6.1 million rebuild is completed


 Perhaps most importantly in terms of energy and maintenance costs, the ice rink will receive an entirely new, state-of-the-art ice making system.

 “There’ll be a whole new sheet of ice out there,” said Poier, which will include new piping and mechanical replacements, such as new chillers and refrigeration equipment.

 Further, the rebuild will include new lightning and dehumidifying systems.

 In addition, there will be infrastructure renovations, with the most dramatic being a conversation of the electrical system to a gas-fired one.  This will improve the facility’s heating and HVAC systems, along with providing more efficient and cost-effective hot water.

 Also, the old electrical system will now be available for recreational purposes, such as lighting special events and powering musical sound gear.

Sprinker's "Brain Trust," l-r, Tim Chan, construction project manager; Kent McLaren, architecture manager; Mike Poier, county construction manager, Skip Ferrucci, resource steward; Kyle Wintermute, general manager of Sprinker.

 “Sprinker won’t have to rent diesel generators for its concerts and other large events,” said Kent McLaren, senior project manager for the architectural firm designing the Sprinker rebuild.

 Poier also said that his team expects that bids on the construction will come in lower than the county has budgeted for, which will allow addition work to be done.

 “If we have this alternate budget, we can renovate the bathrooms, rehab the bleacher seats, and put more finishes in the public areas,” he said.

 The project goes out to bid this week, and bid selection will happen in the next few weeks.

 “We hope to begin construction by June 10,” Poier said.

 In anticipation of its final days, Sprinker will host a Last-Day Luau ice skating session on the evening of May 16.

 Poier and his team said the renovation is scheduled for completion by December 31, 2011.

 During the interim, skaters will have to travel to other rinks, such as the Puget Sound Hockey Center in the Tacoma tide flats, or up to Renton.

Liz Mulvey skating among many other figure skaters this week at Sprinker.

 But the inconveniences will be worth it.

 “All the current systems are aging and need to be replaced,” said Kent McLaren, adding, “Their life-span is coming to an end.  The replacement systems will be four to five generations advanced beyond the old equipment in terms of technology, and it will last for at least 30 years.”

 Finding the money for these improvements has been difficult, and the Pierce County Council has debated various funding proposals over the past year.  However, they have developed a plan whereby the majority of the funding for these improvements is coming from the county’s real estate excise taxes. 

Even though the ice rink will be closed until the end of the year, the adjoining indoor tennis courts will remain open, along with the indoor classrooms used by seniors.  Also, all outdoors facilities will remain open, such as the ball fields and skate park.

Jen Rubin, left, and Jessica Laetham, right, pose after their work out

©  2011  The Mountain News WA

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