CADILLAC — Tuesday is the officially the last day of summer and autumn will begin Wednesday.
That means cooler weather, cold nights, colorful foliage, apple cider, doughnuts and, yes, pumpkin spice lattes. It also means Boon Sports Management, which runs the Wexford County Civic Arena, is gearing up for the start of its busy season. As in years past, BSM will be hosting an open house.
BSM spokesman Mike Figliomeni said the open house, which is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 2, is a way the group shows its appreciation for the community and a way to highlight the things that can be done at the civic arena, which is more commonly known as the Wex.
This year, however, Figliomeni said the event also will be a way for the group to highlight a recently completed project that was made possible by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant and a donation from the Rotary Club of Cadillac.
“This year we were going to have a special thanks to the DNR and the Cadillac Rotary, who funded the match for the DNR grant that replaced the heating and air conditioning units in the auditorium,” Figliomeni said.
In December 2019, Michigan DNR Director Dan Eichinger sent correspondence to Wexford County, Networks Northwest and the Alliance for Economic Success saying their application to receive a Recreation Passport local development grant was approved. The application asked for $95,000, which is the amount of the grant.
The application for the grant funding was made to help pay for the replacement of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in the Wex’s auditorium. The HVAC system, which dates back to the 1970s in the auditorium, was one of the most critical needs at the facility, according to Figliomeni.
A local match between $30,000-$35,000 also was needed, which was generated by several donations.
The Rotary Club of Cadillac voted to use money generated from the annual Rotary auction to help BSM purchase new HVAC equipment. The Rotary presented BSM with a check for $32,250. The Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau also pledged to invest $5,000 to assist with the needs of the facility, while the law firm of McCurdy, Wotila and Porteous challenged the Cadillac Men’s Hockey Program to raise funds. The law firm said it would match dollar for dollar any funds raised by the men’s hockey program up to $10,000.
Together the two raised $24,000 to go toward the Wex. The Wex also received $10,000 as part of the Kraft Hockeyville USA 2019 competition.
Figliomeni said the HVAC upgrades were completed during the summer. Although the new HVAC units haven’t been up and running for a long time, Figliomeni said the feedback from groups who utilized the facility said the upgrades are noticeable.
Figliomeni has said and reiterated that the upgrades will allow BSM to market the facility as a year-round place for events now that the heating and cooling are working properly. He also said BSM invested in curtains that allow the auditorium to be broken into smaller sections, which will allow for smaller events to utilize the facility.
“We would like to be able to present the auditorium as a first-class facility. That was harder to do when we didn’t have efficient heat and air conditioning,” he said. “We are now able to market the facility with confidence and especially the smaller events. We are hoping to get more events in there.”
With things starting to pick up at the facility, Figliomeni said BSM is ready for a busy season. While things like the chiller and the recently replaced HVAC system were big-ticket items, there are still a few things that need to be addressed. The Wex’s parking lot and its roof are items that will need to be fixed eventually, but Figliomeni said the ice arena’s dehumidifier is the next big-ticket item that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
He said without the purchase of a new dehumidifier, it could result in damage being done to the structure itself. The biggest issue is the condensation from the ice arena’s ceiling that drips on the ice. He said based on estimates that were received a few years ago to replace the dehumidifier would cost between $100,000 to $150,000.
Over the years, BSM has been able to save some money to spend on capital improvements or maintenance that comes up. With the need to use those savings to help get the facility through the past year, those dollars aren’t there to help pay for the dehumidifier.
“It is a major investment we will have to make very soon,” he said.