My Turn: The case for year-round ice at Treadwell Arena

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2003

Congratulations to the CBJ, the Douglas Fourth of July Committee, and everyone who helped bring an indoor sheet of ice to Juneau! The arena is up and skaters are on the ice. Overall, there have been few glitches in the first few weeks of operation. I would also like to congratulate and thank the arena management and staff for their commitment to smooth operations.

The excitement and enthusiasm for skating is a swell, growing into a great wave of skating interest. Public skating sessions are jam-packed. With numerous hockey groups rolling, learn-to-skate classes flourishing, and figure skaters beginning to train, it is clear there is great interest in skating, and much demand for ice time. It is wonderful to see. I have anticipated this for more than 15 years, ever since I arrived in Juneau. When I step onto the ice I look into the eyes of eager children, eyes alight with excitement about the thrill of learning to skate. I feel very appreciative for the opportunity to participate in an uplifting and positive community experience. I also feel grateful to be able to offer something that can be such an influence of good for children.

The Treadwell Arena brings to our community a wonderful opportunity to diversify recreation. There are other venues for basketball, tennis, etc. There is only the one sheet of ice. On that single sheet of ice is the potential for a great diversity of skating interest: hockey, figure, recreational, conditioning skating, speed skating, ice dance. While I recognize there is some additional cost to maintaining a sheet of ice, I am confident that more people would use the ice, and a greater diversity of recreational interest would be served by the ice surface rather than a surface for basketball etc. There is a wealth of experience in this community, and with consultation with some of our user groups and individuals that have rink and skating experience elsewhere, I believe some measures could be taken to help reduce costs.

Typically in skating the summer is a time of intensive training. When kids are not in school, camps and clinics can be successful. Hockey camps, figure skating camps, and extensive practice ice in summer are when skaters make their big advances in skills. It is not at all uncommon for kids to be on the ice three to six hours per day in summer. Multiple camps and offerings are common, and make it possible for the different interest groups, and different individuals within interest groups, to be served. Learn-to-skate classes and public skating sessions also continue. While there will likely be some drop off on public skating sessions from the initial numbers we are seeing at present, the camps, clinics and other uses will likely offset this. At any rate, I think the case can be made that the numbers would be higher than the other non-ice uses noted above. At present, every time I am at the arena, skaters and parents ask if there will be ice this summer. As well, there is something to be said for maintaining continuity in programs. For figure skaters, long layoffs retard progress because of the need to re-train, re-condition, and perfect the subtle moves of the sport to get back to where they were, let alone advance. Further, long layoffs lead to higher attrition and lost interest on the part of the participants, which leads to less viable programs.

First and foremost, the Treadwell Arena is an ice rink. The other ad-hoc uses, though sounding attractive on paper in the spirit of multiple-use, will in some ways retard the ultimate maturation of our skating programs in Juneau. Let's commit now to building and developing strong, vibrant and sustaining ice skating programs in Juneau. To do that, we will need to support summer ice.

Randy Rice of Juneau is an ice-skating instructor and figure skater who helps coordinate learn-to-skate classes for the Juneau Douglas Ice Association (JDIA).

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