As much as the winter months seem to drag on, for some, the spring thaw puts a damper on their spirits. Many winter sports enthusiasts have to wait months for the chill in the air to return. For ice skaters and hockey players, Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City keeps the winter fun going all year long.

Centre Ice Area has represented all that is ice skating in Traverse City since its construction in 1997. Centre Ice is operated by “Involved Citizen’s Enterprises” (ICE), a nonprofit volunteer community organization that has been representing the interests of local ice skaters for more than 30 years. ICE has an ongoing commitment to the community by supporting both affordable and accessible ice skating programs in the Grand Traverse region.

This summer, ICE made a commitment to the community in a different way. ICE embarked on two major upgrades to Centre Ice’s facilities that will have a major impact on its energy savings and environmental footprint.

The first upgrade was to Centre Ice’s cooling tower. Centre Ice was operating with a cooling tower that was five years past its expiration date. On top of that, it was designed to operate only for the length of a hockey season. “Before, we would have to run two condensers at 100 percent capacity and sometimes that wasn’t enough to keep the ice Hockey camps take place all summer long on Centre Ice’s two ice rinks. cool on a hot summer day,” explained Tod Cook, building manager at Centre Ice.

The strength and efficiency of the new cooling tower is having a significant impact in the short time that they have had it. “Now we are running just one condenser at 60 percent capacity this summer,” said Cook. “The ice is perfect.”

The second upgrade was made to lights over the ice rinks. The old lights were replaced with high-powered LED fixtures equipped with dimming and occupancy controls. These LEDs are designed to provide more than 50 percent reduction in energy use. A total of 56 fixtures at Centre Ice were replaced with LEDs.

Mike Powers, an energy solutions consultant for Keen Technical Solutions of Traverse City, worked on the project and analyzed the effect the upgrades will have on energy costs and usage. “Overall, the lighting and cooling tower projects are going to reduce their energy use by 300,000 kWh annually as well as save them more than $30,000 in annual energy costs,” explained Powers.

The EPA estimates energy reduction of that size equates to 66.9 tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled, planting 200 acres of trees, or removing 31.1 homes from the electrical grid.

Like any big upgrade, it comes with a big price tag. According to Terry Marchand, ICE’s executive director, the upgrades were a big financial undertaking. “This is the biggest project at Centre Ice since it was constructed.”

Centre Ice received rebates for performing these energy-efficient upgrades through Cherryland’s rebate program. Tammy Squires, an energy use advisor for Cherryland, assisted them through the rebate process. “Our rebate program provides us with another opportunity to be a part of their team when meeting their energy efficiency goals,” said Squires. “When they reach those goals, our whole community wins.” Between the rebates and early release of some of their capital credits, ICE received a check for $40,000.

“Without Cherryland, we would not have been able to do it,” said Marchand.

ICE is giving back to Traverse City in more ways than one. From affordable skating programs to reduced energy usage, ICE has a comprehensive commitment to its community. The savings alone ensure ice skaters and hockey players will not have to wait for the chill of winter to hit the ice.