The Big Dipper Sports Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska was a conversion project of dramatic proportions. In 1968 a crew of volunteers disassembled and moved a World War II airplane hangar from Tanacross to Fairbanks (200 miles) where the structure was to become a covered skating rink. The project was headed by the dedicated high school coach, Hez Rey, and a crew of enthusiastic high school students and volunteers from unions with equipment loaned by construction firms. The building, when reassembled, was as it had been before the move, a crude, unheated shell. After more than a decade (1981), a major renovation project was undertaken for a cost of $6.9 million. The structural framework and roof of the original building was retained, saving approximately one million dollars, while the remainder was demolished.
The Arctic Winter Games were held in Fairbanks for the first time in March 1982. Design and construction schedules were accelerated so the Big Dipper would be ready for use and Fairbanks could provide excellent facilities for this event.
The Big Dipper has an oil-fired heating system. A heat recovery system captures heat from the ice rink refrigeration system, heat which would normally be wasted to the atmosphere and uses the captured heat to temper toilet, locker room and shop exhaust make-up air; to heat the arena space; to heat the soil under the ice rink and prevent it from freezing; and to melt ice machine surfacing shavings. Ventilation and cooling are provided by an economizer cycle fan system. Refrigeration for the ice sheet is provided by a direct refrigeration system. The facility is fully sprinklered and handicapped accessible.