GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Ice Plex officials said in a news release this week that a "significant number" of leaks have been found in the pipes its cooling system. These pipes run a coolant underneath the ice to hold the necessary temperature for making and sustaining ice throughout the season.
Due to the leaks, they have had to temporarily stop ice making and are removing several inches of sand to expose the pipes and execute repairs. New sand will be placed around the pipes and continue with the ice making process.
They had planned to have ice ready and begin the season this week, but the leaks will delay the start of the season. They anticipate opening for the season in October, but an exact date has not yet been determined.
The news release states that the facility was constructed more than 10 years ago with a sand floor and it’s long been a goal of the foundation to install a concrete floor that will be more stable, allowing them to host more events in the space and also potentially expand operational months beyond the normal September-March ice season.
Teresa Gunn, president of the Great Falls Community Ice Foundation, said, "Might not look like it right now, but we are trying to do this all as quickly as we can but we don't want to rush it and make mistakes. The last thing we would want to do, for example, would be to think we fixed the problem, make ice and then a month or two from now have it happen again.”
Gunn hopes the leaking pipes can be patched and that the entire pipe system would not have to be replaced: “The few leaks that we’ve fixed, the piping around them looks in good shape.”
If the system does have to be replaced, Gunn said, the company that would do the work has said the project will be moved to the top of the priority list and the company could have the facility “set up relatively quickly.”
The foundation launched its capital campaign for the master plan improvements in January and the concrete floor was included in that long-range plan.
Due to the leaks in the existing pipes, they are adjusting phases, and fundraising the estimated $700,000 to $1 million to install a concrete floor is the top priority this year, as they expect pipe repairs to get them through one more season, but will need to install the concrete floor next summer to sustain operations going forward.
If you’d like to donate toward the concrete floor installation, visit https://greatfallsiceplex.com or contact Teresa Gunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.