Lawson Arena is a storied rink holding claim to the Western Michigan University Bronco hockey team, the synchronized skating team, the Stallions club hockey team, Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA), and many more. Lawson is receiving a facelift this summer for the first time in 25 years, but not one that many fans will recognize.
The extreme detail taken into consideration to make the rink as nice as possible often goes unnoticed by a majority of players and fans, and that’s why the meticulous job was handed to Rink Manager Paul Schneider.
Schneider starts the day by making coffee for the entire office, but the real work starts after that, as Schneider begins to manage the renovations that are estimated to be done by Sept. 1.
The renovations started as soon as the Broncos played their last home game. Schneider just began working as the rink manager during Lawson’s last renovation.
“We are completely redoing our ice mechanical system,” he said. “We are replacing our heat and air ventilation system, which has been long needed, and we are replacing the ice floor along with the boards and the glass.”
As of now, there are trucks in place of the once solid sheet of ice and the boards have gone awry. Everything other than cutting the cement is done, and Lawson Arena looks more like a basketball court than an ice rink at this point during the work.
“There is six inches of cement that needs to be dug out, and in between that there are pipes that run through there, and that’s what carries the coolant to freeze the cement to make ice. All of that is coming out. They’re going to dig down about four feet,” Schneider said.
Schneider makes it well known that the crew at Lawson is a family. As he walks around looking at the progress, he jokes and laughs with all the staff and reminds them that Western Michigan hockey head coach Andy Murray invited them to his banquet.
“Everything we’ve done is for the safety of the fans and for the players and we’re really looking forward to this new system. We’re going to be able to be much more consistent,” Schneider said.
Reverse osmosis water is also a step being taken to make Lawson as top-notch as possible.
"It takes all of the bad minerals out of the water and makes the ice brighter and clearer, making the lines pop, as well as making the ice more crisp for players to skate on," Schneider said. "After these renovations, Lawson will be on par with any NHL ice surface."
“It was time. Our other system doesn’t owe us anything. It got us through almost 25 years, and that’s a good long time to run an ice system in one place, and we’re pretty happy with that,” Schneider said.
One other big renovation is the ventilation. The building will be expanded into the street that leads to the back parking lot. It will also make more room for television crews. This renovation is significant because the heat generated from making the ice will be redistributed throughout Lawson. The plan is to tear out the cement near the entrances and heat it so that no salt will be needed in the winter. The heat will also go to heating the pool at Gabel Natatorium, which will still be open through all of the ice rink’s construction.
After the renovations, Lawson will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.
Lawson has held some iconic moments in college hockey and with these renovations, Lawson Lunatics will hopefully see many more in the years to come on the newly revamped ice rink.