Credits: University of Minnesota Duluth Athletics (left), Mark Sauer, Mesabi Daily News (right).
Chris Marinucci has traded his hockey pads and skates for a hard hat and steel-toe work boots.
The former Grand Rapids High School and University of Minnesota-Duluth hockey star is now just as comfortable at the Essar Minnesota pellet plant site in Nashwauk as he was scoring goals and helping lead his teams to victories on the ice.
He’s been riding the ups and downs of getting a massive $1.9 billion project up and running for five years — kind of like giving up a two-goal lead, regaining the advantage, falling behind again, and then pushing back to again go ahead.
But this is no game.
It’s a livelihood for Marinucci and more than 700 construction workers currently on site, and 125 permanent Essar employees in Nashwauk and Hibbing. And they now see their goal of start-up production in sight in the second half of 2016, most likely next summer.
“The ups and downs have been difficult. It’s been frustrating getting going and then having hiccups. But I’m ... we’re all ... optimistic,” Marinucci said.
Chris Marinucci won the Hobey Baker Award while at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Credit: University of Minnesota Duluth Athletics.
When the Grand Rapids native walks the Essar site on the expansive Nashwauk landscape that holds such a rich ore deposit, he is impressed to see all the bigness of the project taking shape.
“I can’t believe how much everyone’s accomplished. When you are experiencing it day to day you pretty much see no change. But when you look at a snapshot of a month ago, the growth is incredible,” Marinucci said.
“We just keep seeing more and more trades workers and more and more construction progress.”
Marinucci, now 43, was a member of the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks from 1988-1990, playing on the Class A State High School runner-up team in his senior year.
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