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Treadwell user groups voice support for new rink

Rec director gathering input on proposal

Posted: July 18, 2012 - 11:07pm  |  Updated: July 19, 2012 - 6:44am

Juneau Parks and Recreation staff took the temperature of Treadwell Ice Arena user groups for a new ice arena in the Mendenhall Valley at a meeting Wednesday evening in City Hall.

Almost all of the people who attended the meeting, representing such organizations as the Juneau-Douglas Ice Association, Juneau Adult Hockey Association, Taku Rollersports Club, Juneau Rollergirls and Juneau Skating Club, as well as Juneau-Douglas High School, Thunder Mountain High School and the University of Alaska Southeast, said they like the idea of Juneau getting a second sheet of ice.

Several attendees remarked upon the convenience of the Valley location.

“UAS is pretty thrilled about the prospect of having a Valley rink,” said Tara Olson, student activities director at the university. “We currently don’t utilize the Treadwell rink hardly ever. Students have a hard time justifying the cost in gas to get down there … so many of them don’t use the rink.”

The proposed new facility would be located in Dimond Park, close to the Dimond Park Field House, though Parks and Recreation director Brent Fischer said its exact site is yet to be determined.

The Dimond Park site would put the new facility in close proximity to several schools, including Thunder Mountain High School, which Tom Rutecki said has long craved a hockey team. The school entered the Alaska School Activities Association in 2009, but has never fielded a hockey team.

“Thunder Mountain’s been trying to get a hockey team ever since the school started having sports teams,” Rutecki said. “And the reason they never got a hockey team is simply they can’t get ice time.”

Rutecki added, “I just think there’s potential for the school to really take advantage of this.”

JDHS Crimson Bears Coach David McKenna said another rink could also give his student athletes more practice time.

“We need to find a way to affordably get some more reasonable practice hours,” said McKenna.

McKenna agreed that more ice could also give Thunder Mountain an opportunity to have its own team, remarking, “A new arena would certainly facilitate a second high school team, and I think that’s best for hockey in Juneau in the long run.”

Joe Geldhof, vice president of JAHA, said heavy demand for time on the ice at Treadwell is inconvenient for people whose schedules cannot accommodate late-night hockey games.

“There’s no question we are losing people who are just saying, ‘You know, I have to get up in the morning,’” said Geldhof. “If we had a second sheet of ice, and you could schedule games so that they’re not starting at the 10 (p.m.) level, not only is it a geographic proximity, it’s a time (convenience).”

Some users expressed concerns about the cost of building a new facility in the Valley rather than simply adding another rink to the Treadwell Ice Arena in Douglas.

Matt Bolen, an ice sports enthusiast who has coached hockey and organized hockey tournaments in Juneau, works part-time at Treadwell. He said he is one of the arena’s most frequent users, and the Dimond Park location would be more convenient for him. But “as a taxpayer,” he said, he believes the cost of a separate facility would be “out of the question.”

Bolen also said he is concerned about Treadwell, which opened in 2003 and received praise throughout the meeting for its cleanliness and quality, falling into relative disuse if a new facility opened closer to Juneau’s population center.

“I just worry what would happen to Treadwell,” said Bolen. “It’s just a really nice facility. It’s less than 10 years old.”

Sigrid Dahlberg, president of the Juneau Skating Club’s board of directors, said many of her skaters would benefit more from being able to skate in the summer months, when Treadwell is closed, than they would from a second facility.

“What we really need more than the thought of another facility is ice ... more of the year,” Dahlberg said. She said figure skaters and others lose valuable practice time during the months when Treadwell is closed.

At several points, Geldhof and others brought up the idea of Juneau attracting more hockey teams and skaters from out of town and embracing its status as a “Northern city” with more skating ice. Geldhof said the user group approach is limited in that it does not represent these potential visitors.

“It’s not just for the citizens of the Valley,” Geldhof said of the proposed new facility. “It’s for the Coast Guard families that are here, it’s for the students who live out of town, it’s for everybody up North, including the Yukon.”

The Juneau Community Foundation secured $650,000 from the Alaska State Legislature earlier this year for the proposed indoor ice rink facility at Dimond Park.

Additional funds for the facility, projected to cost $6.5 million for construction — with an additional $520,000 planning and design work cost, $1 million estimated extra for spectator seating, and $500,000 more for a ground-source heat pump system — have yet to be secured. Eric Kueffner, president of the JCF’s board of directors, said his organization has been working on the issue with Rep. Cathy Munoz (R-Juneau)’s office, which was represented at the meeting by a staffer.

The JCF is seeking direction from the City and Borough of Juneau, as the foundation does not plan to administer the facility on a permanent basis, Kueffner said.

“Although we’re the grant recipient, we don’t own this land, and we don’t have anyone on staff who does this stuff,” said Kueffner.

Fischer said it remains unclear whether the CBJ will be in charge of operating the facility, if it is built.

“We’ll continue to collect data on it … and then I’ll get direction from the City Manager (Kim Kiefer) and the Assembly on how we’re going to do it — if the city’s doing it, if the JCF’s doing it,” said Fischer. He also noted that it is “really early in the process.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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