Concrete at the east end of Sullivan Arena was torn out Monday to allow workers to replace corroded pipes under the floor, a process that led to the cancellation of this weekend’s Make It Alaskan Festival and could mean a smaller venue for the Alaska Aces’ season-opening hockey games next week.
The 24th annual Make It Alaskan Festival was expected to draw 240 vendors and a crowd of 10,000 or more during a three-day run that was supposed to begin at the arena Friday.
The festival won’t be rescheduled, promoter Chris Cox said, because the show is too big for other venues and weekends at Sullivan are booked from now until late March.
“We might be able to cram into the Dena’ina (convention center), but it’s extremely difficult to do, and besides, they’ve got conventions every week,” Cox said.
The Aces open their season with home games Monday and Tuesday. Terry Parks, the managing partner of the team’s ownership group, said the team needs to know by Wednesday afternoon if the pipes are fixed and ice can be made.
“That’s when we’ll have to look at our contingency plans,” he said.
If the games have to move, they won’t move far, Parks said.
“It will be in town,” he said. “We won’t move it to the Valley and we won’t go to Fairbanks.”
Moisture that leaked through corroded pipe into the arena’s cooling system foiled an effort last week to make ice, leaving 20 to 25 percent of the rink uncovered. Workers were on track to flush out the water and fix the pipe in time until Saturday when the pipe “sprang another leak,” SMG manager Joe Wooden said.
“That’s when the city decided to act immediately” and replace the pipes rather than risk springing more leaks as the hockey season goes on, Wooden said. “Best case, it’ll take four or five days. Worst case, two weeks.”
That leaves hopes for the Aces. But there is no hope for the Make It Alaskan Festival.
“It was unavoidable,” Wooden said of the cancellation. “The last thing we ever want to do is cancel an event, because we know how that ripples out.”
The festival is Anchorage’s second-biggest trade show, behind the Great Alaska Sportsman Show, Cox said. It started as a craft show but has expanded to include all kinds of made-in-Alaska products, from food to furniture and more.
Some vendors follow a circuit of holiday gift shows and will be able to sell their goods elsewhere, Cox said. But some only do one or two shows a year.
“Like my mom,” he said. “She does Southern-fried apple pies and she wants to know, 'What do I do with a thousand pies? Because she doesn’t do any other shows. People like that are basically out of luck.”
Cox said he spoke on the phone Monday with a woodworker from Hope who was in tears when she learned of the cancellation.
“She said, 'This is my money for the next six months. I don’t know what I’m gonna do,’ ’’ he said. “I’ve got two people threatening to sue the city.”
The city owns the arena, which was built in 1985, and SMG is under contract to manage it.
Cox said the Make It Alaskan Festival will return to Sullivan on the first weekend of October next year. “I just cannot apologize enough to the vendors and the public,” he said.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News