Sullivan Arena upgrades underway: New seats & ice

UAA’s Wells Fargo Sports Complex is not the only sporting venue in Anchorage that is undergoing changes this summer. The Sullivan Arena is also amid interior renovations as well.

This summer, crews are installing new seating, concrete flooring, refrigerate tubing, dasher boards (where the ads go around the ice), doors, and a new ice plant. The walls will also receive a new coat of paint. Construction began late last month and will finish in early September, according to Bryce Heslip, a public relations employee with the municipality.

“We have been working to refresh many of our aging public facilities such as the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center, the Dempsey Anderson (ice arena) and the Loussac Library, to ensure they are efficient, in good condition and prepared to last for the next generation,” said Heslip in an e-mail.

All in all, the upgrades are intended to make watching both of Anchorage’s foremost hockey teams a bit easier and more enjoyable. The Sullivan Arena, or “Sully,” as it is affectionately called, is in its third decade of bringing fans live hockey. The arena opened in 1983 and is home to both the Seawolves and Alaska Aces.

Over a given weekend in the winter, the Aces and Seawolves can attract approximately 8,000 and 4,000 fans to the arena, respectively. This is why this project is considerably more expensive than some of the other upgrades Anchorage rinks have been getting, and it is funded by a $9,119,000 grant from the state legislature.

The new seats will be slightly larger and will include cup holders according to Alan Czajkowski, director of maintenance and operations with the municipality.

“We didn’t go top-of-the-line. We kind of went middle-of-the-road with a comfortable seat,” Czajkowski said of the new seats.

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Another one of the exciting changes is the new ice plant, which uses carbon dioxide instead of Freon for refrigeration.

“Freon is being phased out because it is harmful to the environment,” said Czajkowski.

The new carbon dioxide plant will also improve operating costs.

Both the Aces and Seawolves’ organizations are cheering on the changes.

“We’re super excited about it,” said Anna Bosco, who works in the front office of the Aces. Bosco said the combination of brand-new seats and hockey boards will offer fans improved comfort and line of vision.

“I think the whole experience is going to be 100 percent better than what it was before,” said Bosco.

The Aces play in the Eastern Conference Hockey League, which together with the American Hockey League make up the only two U.S. minor hockey leagues affiliated with the NHL.

UAA Athletics Director Keith Hackett agrees, saying it will help enhance the program’s recruiting and fan support.

“It’s going to look better when it’s streamed and when it’s on television,” said Hackett. “You not going to look and say, ‘Oh my god, look at all those empty orange and yellow seats that aren’t filled.’”

Hackett, who previously worked as associate athletic director at the larger University of Nevada, knows how important it is to look after the students as much as the student-athletes.

“We’re here for the students. If it wasn’t for students, there would be no need for us,” said Hackett.