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Manufacturing ice substitute provides mill with a sideline.

Responding to the downturn in the construction industry, MacMillan-Bloedel's Nipigon plywood mill has found new business by manufacturing skating rinks made from a substance known as Glice.

Glice consists of a three-quarter-inch plywood core sandwiched between two sheets of polyetheline. The product is delivered to an arena in four-by-four-foot sections which are connected by a plastic spine. Once installed Glice is covered with a layer of silicon.

Nipigon plant manager Henry Schnelhardt admits that the Glice business is erratic.

"It's nothing we count on for regular work," he says.

However, the product is receiving increased attention because it is more durable than ice and it can substantially reduce the cost of operating an arena.

"There is a cost savings for arenas using Glice. It's a good training surface for children, and there is no need for a Zamboni. You just have to vacuum it once a day," explains Reid Johnson, chairman of the arena commission in Iron Bridge.

Iron Bridge has used Glice for more than a year as part of a pilot project for the provincial government. The $315,000 installation cost was paid for by the municipality and the ministries of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Tourism and Recreation.

The Ministry of Energy is using the project to compare the cost of operating a Glice arena to the cost of operating an ice arena.

While the project has not yet been completed, Johnson claims Iron Bridge has reduced its operating costs from $240 per day with ice to $107 per day with Glice.

The surface has been utilized by a four-team men's hockey league and for skating classes.

"It's slower than ice, and you have to work a little bit harder, but you get used to it after a while," Johnson says. "We've never said Glice was as good as ice."

Johnson is also the Canadian representative for Glice dealer Viking Arena Systems in King of Prussia, Pa. He claims that the product is more versatile than ice.

"We've had part of our agricultural fair in the arena, and we've put a barrier down the middle and used one side for skating and took the silicon off the other side and used it for dancing," Johnson says. "When the surface was installed, we told Viking that we were really going to test it."

The surface is expected to last about 15 years. At that point the entire surface will be turned over and, barring unforeseen circumstances, it should last another 15 years.

Johnson explains that Glice is not being touted as a replacement for ice, but he says it does provide an option for some communities which are attempting to reduce costs.

"There is already a number of communities considering installing Glice," Johnson says. "We expect to be installing Glice in at least four arenas this year."

EUROPE

Glice has been available for a number of years. There are eight arenas in Europe which use the surface, including one in its second decade of use. However, Johnson says the product was not being marketed properly until recently.

"They were trying to sell it to places in Florida," he recalls. "No one wants to sweat on ice skates."

Because of space requirements for both the machinery and a drying area, Schnelhardt says it is unlikely that a permanent Glice production line will be established in Nipigon.
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Title Annotation:plywood mill manufactures skating rinks using Glice
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:558
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