Ready. Set. Crash: City of Steamboat upgrading bumper cars at Howelsen Ice Arena | SteamboatToday.com

Ready. Set. Crash: City of Steamboat upgrading bumper cars at Howelsen Ice Arena

Thousands and thousands of crashes have proven to be too tough on the city of Steamboat Springs' first bumper car fleet.

With spare parts impossible to find and repair bills mounting up, the cars will be going into retirement soon.

But worry not, bumper car lovers.

A new, more technologically advanced fleet of cars will soon travel in a ship across the Pacific Ocean from China and be ready this summer for drivers to crash them into each other at Howelsen Ice Arena.

City officials say the current fleet has served Steamboat well, but the cars have reached the end of their useful life.

Financial records show the city spent more than $6,000 on battery replacements and maintenance for the existing cars last year, with several checks written out to Ace Hardware.

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But the profits from the attraction in recent years, plus utility savings at the Ice Arena, have allowed the city to write a $51,000 check to get a new fleet.

The city conducted a worldwide search for new cars before placing the order.

Ice arena manager Dmitry Chase said Wednesday the use of the bumper cars has exploded since they were introduced about five years ago.

And along with thousands of more rides per year, the city has also seen a significant increase in revenue from the attraction.

Chase said revenue from the rides has almost doubled, with about $75,000 coming in last year.

"On average, we've been doing about 3,000 rides per year," he said. "We're projecting this year we'll do between 7,500 to 8,000 rides."

The new cars from China are expected to outperform the current fleet, which the city bought five years ago from an ice rink in Idaho for $12,000.

Chase said in addition to lower maintenance bills, the city is expecting it will be able to increase the amount of time the cars spend crashing into each other on the ice.

That's thanks to the new tires on the bumper cars.

Because the current fleet has harder tires with studs in them, Chase said they have more of an impact on the ice.

With softer tires and no studs, the city estimates the ice can be resurfaced in just 15 to 20 minutes compared to the current resurfacing time of an hour.

"This will enable us to run the cars more often," he said.

Chase said the new bumper cars are expected to arrive in Steamboat sometime around July 10.

"It's a very family-oriented activity," Chase said. "It's very fun."

To learn more about the bumper cars and when the rides are available, visit steamboatsprings.net/ice.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10