Steppe Arena paves road for future success

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      Training and competing on the ice, even in the heat of summer, was the dream of winter sports athletes. This dream is close to realization following the opening ceremony of Steppe Arena, also known as Ice Palace, on September 29. The newest development has created opportunities for faster development of winter sports and training of future Olympic medalists in Mongolia.

N.Batmunkh, CEO of Steppe Arena LLC, which is implementing the project, introduced the ice arena in detail. He says it is Mongolia’s first closed-roof multi-functional arena that can operate in any season and meets international standards. Chairman of the Board of Steppe Arena LLC P.Tsagaan initiated the project, and Achit Ikht LLC provided most of its funding.

The construction of Steppe Arena began on April 14, 2019 in New Yarmag. It was built in accordance with international standards with the participation of 95 domestic and six foreign companies, and assistance of more than 1,600 specialists. It is an “international project” involving engineers and technicians from Russia, China, Canada, the US and Austria, N.Batmunkh explained.

National companies such as Steppelink Holding, UPC and MAK have also invested in the project. Enterprises such as SD Engineering, Anagram, Steppe Solar, Mongol Advocacy, Premium and AVINEX were involved in the day-to-day construction work of the project.

Steppe Arena has a usable area of 7,800 square meters, 2,600 spectator seats, five changing rooms for judges and athletes, a standard first-aid room, and a meeting room with a capacity of 80 to 100 people that can be used for press conferences and workshops.

Upon entering the main entrance of the ice arena, Uchral and Tsatsral, the iconic figures of Steppe Arena, greeted us for the opening ceremony. The main ice rink is located on the right side of the main corridor. Visitors are required to scan a QR code, available at its four entrances, to enter the rink.

For the first time in Mongolia, the project is introducing new technologies such as stadium ceiling design, ZIP system, assemblable flooring, ice resurfacer and ventilation engineering, according to relevant officials. Officials pointed out that the ZIP system, which is a metal sheet roof, is a “technologically unique solution”. This technology is an easy-to-assemble, time-saving and durable roof, they said.

The temperature inside the ice arena needs a more sophisticated controller than an ordinary sports arena. They said that ventilation of the ice rink should be kept at a temperature of 0 degree Celsius to prevent the ice from melting, while heating for the spectator seats should be kept above zero degrees.

An assemblable flooring has been introduced to allow public events to be organized in addition to hockey, figure skating and short track competitions on the ice rink. In other words, without melting the ice, it is possible to place the heat-retaining floor and hold a variety of events and competitions.

Steppe Arena is also equipped with state-of-the-art sound system, sound absorbers and insulation, and lighting equipment that allows people to organize events in a unique way. For instance, it is designed to provide a variety of indoor sports, art performances and public events with the latest sound system, LED screens, lighting colors, reflections and high sensitivity, officials say. Its lighting reportedly has a high-resolution focus that meets the requirements for ice hockey. There are four sided LED score screens that completely surround the ice rink. Moreover, it has a baskteball hoop and assemblable flooring.

The design of the ice arena incorporates national elements and style. For example, the ice arena had Mongolian traditional-style pillars that incorporated modern designs.

After the tour around the ice rink, the opening ceremony began with art and sports performances. President of Mongolia U.Khurelsukh and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar D.Sumiyabazar attended the opening along with investors and other officials.

In his opening remarks, President U.Khurelsukh said, “The ice arena, which provides an opportunity for our athletes to successfully participate in the Winter Olympics, is a special development for not only sports but also the cultural sector. On behalf of all Mongolians, I wish all the best for the wealth creators who have made this amazing development. The companies that jointly implemented the project clearly demonstrated what social responsibility is. I am proud of you.”

“There is no doubt that Mongolia’s first Winter Olympics medalists will be born from this four-season ice rink. I am confident that the time will come soon,” he added.

At the opening ceremony, CEO of Steppe Arena LLC N.Batmunkh stressed that not only professional athletes but also ordinary people can spend their free time more productively and in a healthier manner at the ice arena in Ulaanbaatar.

Project initiator P.Tsagaan underscored, “After 898 days of hard work since the construction work began, we are opening our ice arena today. I am happy to have fulfilled my promise to achieve the dreams of everyone who loves ice skating.”

FIRST ICE HOCKEY MATCH TAKES PLACE IN UB

The opening ceremony of the ice arena featured figure skating, a short track speed skating show, and a friendly hockey match.

Born and raised in the US, ice skater O.Iveel came to Mongolia for the first time to attend the opening of Mongolia’s first ice arena. Her figure skating performance amazed the audience, most of whom had never watched a figure skating performance from up close.

Ice skater O.Iveel

Six-time national champions Blast and the young hockey team Blast Avtomotive played a friendly match on the new ice rink. Players were overjoyed to be able to play ice hockey without having to wait for winter.

It may have been a friendly match, but the audience were thrilled when the younger team seized 5:4 victory over Blast. Players’ joy, confidence and skills sparked hope of a brighter future for young Mongolian ice hockey players, especially now that they have a standard ice rink where they can train year-round.

Athletes also shared their satisfaction with the development. Ice hockey player E.Enkhsukh said, “I have been playing ice hockey for 11 years. This is my sixth year playing for the Mongolian national team. In the past, when we didn’t have an ice arena, we practiced at outdoor ice rinks. Since Mongolia didn’t have an ice rink that met international standards, we often went to Russia and China to train for international competitions. Now we hope that Mongolian athletes can get qualified for the Olympics.”

“I am very happy that we now have an ice arena. It is motivating me to enter competitions in the future. There is a 400-meter ice rink for short track speed skating in Khandgait. I used to spend the winter there training. I am 18 years old this year. My near-term goal is to train well and participate in the 2026 Winter Olympics,” noted A.Solongo, who has been practicing short track since the age of 14.

With a new ice arena built in New Yarmag area of Khan-Uul District, athletes are sure that more contributions will be made to the development of winter sports in Mongolia and nurture Winter Olympic medalists.

COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES AVAILABLE

Steppe Arena has a parking lot with a capacity of 1,000 cars, a coffee shop, a fast food section, cafeteria, rentable meeting rooms, and a training and fitness center. However, the outside parking lot located west of the ice arena has not yet been completed.

When you enter from the back door of the building, there is a fitness center buildings, and on the second floor, you can find a restaurant and a coffee shop with a view of the city. There is also a shop and fast food section located in the ice rink.

Steppe Arena provides additional services for event organizers, including professional consulting, catering, and decoration services.

The building is designed to be “human-friendly”. Strollers, hearing aids for customers with hearing impairment, and soundproof rooms for young children are available there.

Steppe arena plans to start winter sports classes in October. Regular ice hockey and figure skating lessons will be provided to amateurs and students by a professional trainer from Monday to Thursday. Officials emphasized the possibility of signing contracts with schools to engage in regular winter sport classes and find promising future athletes.

The first indoor ice rink in the world history was built in 1862 in Montreal, Canada. Nearly 150 years later, Mongolia has successfully launched its very own indoor ice, opening up many new opportunities for locals.

Misheel Lkhasuren

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