The Treadwell Arena opened to the sounds of a hockey buzzer and cheers this morning as a enthusiastic crowd of skaters quickly filled the ice.
The first skate at Juneau's new ice rink was set aside for those age 50 and up. Douglas resident Pat Spencer was among those who gave it a try.
"I'm originally from Minnesota and I've been waiting for 40 years for this," she said. "I think it's absolutely gorgeous."
Jim Beedle, who was lacing up his skates at a bench nearby, said he usually skates outside at Dredge Lakes, Mendenhall Lake and Twin Lakes in the winter.
"I saw the picture in the paper and I said, 'Wow, that's a real facility, I've got to go check it out.' We really have an ice rink," he said. "I don't know what I expected, but this is nice."
Today was what officials at the city's Parks and Recreation Department called a "soft opening," giving employees time to work out any bugs before the official grand opening later this month. The rink is open for rentals, recreational open skates, hockey games and lessons at Savikko Park in Douglas.
It didn't take long for the skaters inside this morning to get used to the rink's glossy surface. Anita Statter had her light blue skates sharpened in preparation the rink's opening. She purchased them 30 years earlier at Montgomery Ward in Canada, she said.
"The ice is so smooth, it's fast. It's not like skating on Mendenhall Lake or Auke Lake," she said. "I've been up since 6 o'clock this morning because I was really excited about it. It's nice to see so many people. Juneau is still small enough that you know almost everyone in here."
The arena isn't heated, so interim rink manager Myiia Whistler advised spectators to bring a warm jacket and a blanket, especially if they plan to sit on the metal bleachers inside. The rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide.
Parking is available in the lots along Savikko Road, with the space in front of the arena reserved for loading and unloading and for disabled patrons, Whistler said.
The Juneau Douglas Ice Association will offer skating lessons and youth hockey at the rink, while the Juneau Adult Hockey Association has organized recreational hockey leagues.
The arena has 225 rental skates available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Vending machines will be installed Friday, and Parks and Rec is researching what to do with concessions in the future, Whistler said.
The arena will have ice from September to mid-April each year. During the summer, the arena can be used for basketball, tennis, volleyball, in-line hockey and other sports, Whistler said.
The ice rink cost about $3.5 million to build. About $2.2 million of the total came from city sales tax and general fund revenue, with the rest from government grants and private donations. The Denali Commission and the Rasmussen Foundation together provided almost $1 million for the project.
Wayne Jensen of Jensen Yorba Lott in Juneau was the architect for the project and the prime contractor was Coogan Construction of Juneau.
The Douglas Fourth of July Committee, which helped spearhead the arena, contributed money for the rink's design, the ice resurfacer and the sound system. The project started as a way to mark the 100th year of organized Fourth of July celebrations in Douglas, the committee's past president Rich Poor said.
Douglas Fourth of July committee member Sandy Williams said the community's support helped get the project off the ground.
"More than anything else, it's going to be an opportunity for youngsters to have another avenue for things to do, and we know they need it," he said. "I think it's going to be a tremendous asset to our community."
The rink's Olympia ice resurfacer came from the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta.
The rink is named after the community of Treadwell and the Treadwell Mine, Poor said. The mine operated near Douglas until 1922.
An official opening celebration is planned Feb. 22. The event will include free public open skates along with hockey and figure-skating exhibitions.
For a complete February schedule, visit www.juneau.org/parksrec/icerink.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.