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Hey, Juneau! The ice is nice

For many, Treadwell Arena's grand opening signals a dream come true

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003

The Treadwell Arena, Juneau's gift to itself, held its grand opening Saturday with bagpipes, speeches and exhibitions of hockey and figure skating.

The ice rink at Savikko Park in Douglas opened for public use Feb. 6, but Saturday's event was a chance to say thank you.

"Treadwell Arena is certainly more than an ice rink," Mayor Sally Smith, preceded by the Stroller White Pipes and Drums, told the crowd of several hundred people. "It's a symbol of a community working together to realize a dream."

For eight-year-old Riley Leary, perhaps the dream was to score a goal in a hockey game, which she did Saturday. Riley has been skating since she was 3, but only outdoors and not on a team.

"It's fun playing. I just hope sometime we can win a game," she said.

Treadwell Arena is popular. In the rink's first 13 days of operation, four open-skate sessions reached the safety capacity of 250 people, said city Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer.

So far, about 300 people have participated in one of the three Juneau-Douglas Ice Association's programs, said organizer Ken Collison. The association offers a youth hockey program and figure skating and learn-to-skate programs for children and adults.

About 130 people have joined the Juneau Adult Hockey Association, forming nine teams, said Ben White, its president.

"This is phenomenal," he said, looking out over the ice sheet. "This is a dream come true for most of us. We've been waiting awhile for it."

The public, mostly through sales tax revenues, funded two-thirds of the arena's $3.6 million cost. Donations, state grants and private foundation grants completed the funding.

"We the people made this facility happen," Kiefer told the crowd.

The Douglas Fourth of July Committee was a driving force in developing the rink, Mayor Smith said. Sandy Williams, a committee member, said he was motivated by the desire to see more youth activities and year-round use of Savikko Park.

The spirit of giving continues in the arena's daily activities. The Juneau-Douglas Ice Association uses 40 volunteers, for example.

"And they're just giving their all," said organizer Jeannette Collison, watching a youth hockey exhibition. "You see these kids out on the ice - it's just a thrill to see them out. But that's only (possible) because of six adults who are willing to give their time."

Ian Leary, father of Riley, plays in the adult league and coaches in the kids' league.

"The smiles on all the faces are just great. It should have been built 25 years ago," he said.

Before the arena was built, hockey players satisfied their urge to play either by traveling to rinks in Haines Junction or Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, or playing outdoors at Twin Lakes on the few occasions a year the weather allows for it.

The indoor rink makes leagues possible, which attracts many new skaters, Leary said.

"If you have guaranteed ice, you can have leagues. There's coaches who can help (kids)," he said.

Logan Coleman, 7, is new to skating and hockey, but he seemed to know how to make the best of circumstances.

"I like to skate. Sometimes when I skate fast and fall it kind of hurts, but it's fun," he said after an exhibition game. "You get to skate on the ice on your belly when you fall."

Anchorage figure skaters William Nottingham, 12, and Christina Gordon, 21, and Matthew Bohannan, 23 - all champions at the national level - gave the Juneau audience a taste of what can be done on ice.

"Is that cool? Yeah," a woman said to a bug-eyed kid perched on an adult's shoulders as the skaters demonstrated spins and jumps.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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