NORTH MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM)-The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is hoping for a snowy winter, after struggling to stay open last season.
Two winters ago, Muskegon received 103.1 inches of snow. However last winter, the area saw less than half of that-just 50 inches. To make matters worse, temperatures from December through February were nearly six degrees warmer than average, making winter 2011-2012 the second warmest on record.
Businesses throughout West Michigan were hit hard by the historically mild winter, but nowhere was that more evident than at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, which features a luge, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. The non-profit organization typically opens the first week in December, but the mild temperatures last winter pushed that opening back until mid-January. It was the longest delay for the complex in nearly 15 years.
"We always expect a January thaw, but years like last were difficult for the bottom line," said Jim Rudicil.
Revenue dropped 70 percent, forcing staff at the sports complex to get a little creative to save their season. They used blankets to preserve the luge track, which is the only one of its kind in the lower peninsula, and held a benefit in March to help cover operating costs.
The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex was closed as of November 28. Temperatures must be below freezing for seven consecutive days before the winter luge, ice skating rinks and trails can open for the season. There must be at least three inches of snow on the ground for snowshoeing and sledding, and six inches of snow for cross country skiing trails to open.