Dawson City has installed new ice at its arena and curling rink in the hopes of extending the winter sports season.
Until now, ice at the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre was created by Mother Nature. Dawsonites had to wait for it to get cold enough outside for everything inside to freeze.
When the temperature outside got too warm, that was the end of the season.
The new system is more like what’s found in your average arena. A series of pipes have been laid out on top of the gravel pad. A chilling unit outside the curling rink pumps glycol through those pipes to keep the ice consistently cold.
“It’s a game changer in my opinion because in theory we could have ice Oct. 1 when there’s no way in heck that would happen before,” said Paul Robitaille, marketing and events manager for the Klondike Visitors Association and a board member for the curling and hockey associations.
Dawson City typically hosts seven to eight tournaments or bonspiels per year between January and March.
In the past, teams have come from Outside for events and found the weather above freezing, Robitaille said.
“Your water’s not freezing when you’re putting it down and with use you lose all that ice. We did finish the events, but we were down to dirt basically. Which looks really crappy when you’re trying to host an event.”
The hope is to keep the ice open from October to the end of March, said Dawson’s recreation manager, Marta Selassie, though she said the final decision will be up to the town council.
A longer season, plus higher quality ice, means Dawson will ideally be able to host more events, Robitaille said.
The community couldn’t host Yukon curling championships without artificial ice, he said. Many Yukon hockey tournaments are scheduled during a time when the old ice used to be unavailable.
“There were certain age groups that we could never get because we just couldn’t host a tournament at that time of year. It just opens up those possibilities.”
The new ice cost $850,000. Placing the pipes on top of gravel is less expensive than embedding them in concrete, Selassie said.
Moving to a system using concrete could be something Dawson considers in the future, she said.
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