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Willmar notebook: Second-generation ice manager

The new manager at the Civic Center’s twin arenas is a former three-sport athlete at The Breck School in Golden Valley. Troy Ciernia’s dad, Mark, worked at the Mustangs’ arena. He still works there, as assistant manager.

“I think he started there while he was still in school,” Troy said the other day. “He’s worked there about 40 years. I guess that’s where I got the bug.”

Ciernia is a big guy. He has Popeye-like forearms. He played center and nose guard in high school and three years of Junior Hockey in Canada.

He has a degree in sports management from Salem State University, where he played hockey and baseball. The small manager’s office in the Civic has framed certificates in Arena Management, Arena Programing and Arena Operation.

His working life, so far, is all about arenas, ice and its adjunct, food service.

He has five years working in Massachusetts arenas, starting at a local rink while still in college. He was the regional manager for a private company running three arenas when he decided to return to his home state.

“Our second baby was on the way,” he said. “I figured it was now or never for returning to Minnesota, or I’d be stuck out east.” His wife, Jess, a New Hampshire native, and Troy lived with Troy’s parents in Eagan when they returned. Troy found work at several metro rinks.

He’s settled in here, renting for the time being. The couple has two girls, ages 4 and 3 months.

Retired manager Kevin Madsen, who spent 27 years working at the Civic, outlined all the particulars. Troy spent six days before his start date of June 2 pouring over the details of the year-around operation.

This is what Troy told me about his management experienced in Fitchburg, Mass., kind of north-central in the state.

He ran three rinks in the Fitchburg-Gardner area for a private management corporation. The main Fitchburg State College complex had two ice sheets.

Troy said that besides the college team, the rink was used by four public high schools, two small prep schools, two figure skating clubs and two youth programs. The college team got the main sheet from 3-5 p.m. each day. The rest got 50 minute blocks, including early mornings.

“Scheduling here, by comparison, should be a breeze,” he said with a smile.

Adult hockey leagues occupied late evenings all week. His job included maximizing concession sales. Beer was very much part of the evening package. A Bud Lite Tournament drained 128 kegs in a six-day run, he recalled.

Among his ambitions here is to increase open skating and open hockey usage. “Dead ice is not good,” he said.

He also plans to produce a stand-alone website for the Civic Center.

Curling? He played it when he lived in Canada but it has not been part of his management experience. He will learn the ice-making art from Madsen, a nationally-recognized expert in making arena curling ice.

The SonShine Festival on July 16-19 uses both arenas and the grounds of both the Civic Center and senior high school. While new to him, his experienced staff of office manager Lynette Christenson and building engineers Keith Hendrickson and Jeremy Marcus have been through it many times before.

Farther ahead, Willmar and all indoor inks nationally must make plans for replacing cooling agent R22 (Freon), perhaps with ammonia. Also, due for replacement, the compressor and pumps in the Cardinal Arena will be 35 years old this winter.   

Crossroads crew

The new manager was quick to realize the value of the Crossroads work crew. Supervisor Lee Wierschem brings out as many as eight special-needs individuals to help with cleaning, dry floor set up and minor maintenance.

“They do a heckuva good job,” said Ciernia. “Lee is terrific to work with.”

Ever notice that by the end of the ice season the dasher boards have a five o’clock shadow. But come November, they are bright and clean once again.

Those dashes, apostrophes and commas left by a winter of slap and snap shots are removed one black mark at a time.

Wierschem explained that a spray cleaner with cheap, disposable sponges plus “a lot of elbow grease” do the trick. It takes a week to do both sets of boards followed by a waxy sealer coat, which, he explained, will make it easier to remove the rubber residue next year. 

20 years running

Wendy Nelsen, 61, Ann Day, 67, and Myron “Mike” Mulder, 63, were recognized Saturday for running in all 20 Foot Lake 4s.

Nelsen lowered her own 60-65 age-group record. Day, the women’s champion the first year, still owns four age-group standards.

Mulder, from Prinsburg, has often run with one of his four children. The banker commented he doesn’t run a lot of races but the four-mile is just “my distance.” 

On the fly

n Akron right-fielder Jordan Smith went 3-for-4 with an RBI, raising his average to .210, but the Rubber Ducks fell 4-2 to the SeaWolves at Canal Park on Wednesday.

n Head coach Jon Konald, eight assistant coaches and 44 sophomore-senior football players attended the Bison Football Camp June 13-15 in Fargo. The Cardinals were one of 23 schools from three states and one squad from Canada. Teams scrimmaged schools of similar size and received technique training from NDSU position coaches. The Cards will have eight full or part-time starters back on offense and five on defense. Practice opens Aug. 11, three days after the first practice at Ridgewater College.

n Adam Nibaur, who was a top offensive weapon at receiver for the 2013 football Cardinals, will play basketball at Concordia College, and perhaps some baseball, too.

n The city and the Little Crow Archers hosted the Minnesota State Archery Association Target Shoot over the weekend, with a record turnout of a 154 archers. The spacious wide-open field south of the former sewer plant worked well and feedback from the competitors was favorable. WCER director Steve Brisendine told me the far south portion of what is now part of Pleasantview Park will become a designated archery range accessed off 19th Avenue Southwest.

n Darci Mohr, Outreach & Communications Assistant at Rice Hospital, reports the final registrations for the 2014 Foot Lake-4 are 477 runners and 165 walkers (non-chipped). Pickle Events lists 448 finishing times. 

n ACGC grad Tyler Berghuis scored two pins and lost a narrow decision for the Falcons’ Class A runner-up wrestling team in March. He’s going to rodeo in college Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. The Tarleton Rodeo Association, according to the TSU website, competes in the 10-school Southwest Region with five fall and five spring rodeos. Tyler is the 2013 Minnesota High School Rodeo bareback champ, where “riding time” on a bucking bronco is quite precarious compared to wrestling. Younger brother Cody rides bulls, and also wrestles.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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