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The Wallowa Community Ice Rink pavilion is in the conceptual design phase, with a sketch of how the inside, (above), and outside (below), may look when completed.
by KATY NESBITT / The Observer
Multi-use facility in the works for Wallowa Community Ice Rink
The Wallowa Valley Community Ice Rink, a popular wintertime venue, continues to gain popularity in Wallowa County and its supporters are hard at work planning a new multi-use facility that can be used year-round.
The pavilion is in the conceptual design phase, said Mike Hansen, a volunteer heading up the fundraising for the project. So far the rink received $3,000 from the county’s video lottery fund.
Starting locally, Hansen said they hope to raise enough money to apply for grants from bigger funders.
The building will be a Quonset hut style with laminated wooden beams and concrete, rock-faced posts, a fabric roof, a cement slab floor and will be open on all four sides, said Hansen.
In the winter months, the slab would support an ice rink. In the summer, there would be space for other sports like basketball and roller hockey and events such as music concerts, reunions, farmers markets and weddings.
“We want different folks with different interests to be able to use it,” said Hansen.
Leon Werdinger volunteered to call around to different ice rinks in the region and find an architect. He found one who has drawn up plans that include restrooms, changing rooms, an office, storage for ice rink maintenance equipment and a commercial kitchen. Photovoltaic solar power is included in the plans to power the whole park.
Werdinger said the rinks they liked the best were ones in Klamath Falls and Leavenworth, Wash., because they were multi-use.
“Both of those rinks are so much more than ice rinks, which are only used, at most, five months a year,” said Werdinger.
He and Hansen both emphasized how important it is to get others on board to help dream what other events the pavilion can serve.
Werdinger said, “We happen to be the group that has the most distinct need and are spearheading the effort, but we invite other interests to get on board and give us feedback so it can be an asset for the whole community.”
A covered rink will reduce melting from the sun and keep snow off — improving the quality of the ice and extending the season, said Hansen.
Hosting hockey tournaments could be a real wintertime economic driver, said Werdinger, as it is in Salmon, Idaho, a similarly sized community.
“It will develop more for the kids here,” said Werdinger.
The rink isn’t just for kids, however. The local adult hockey team, the “Eh’s,” travel to tournaments and this year competed at Seeley Lake, Mont.
Fred Steen stepped in as the rink manager at the end of the season and has been involved for all 11 years that it has been in operation. He said kids who started playing hockey when they were little are now involved with the intermediate/advanced group of 14 and older skaters.
“We are now seeing a product of what we started way back when,” said Steen.
He said experienced hockey players in the community have volunteered to teach beginning hockey skills so the tradition continues — building up hockey teams for the future.
This year “Free Skate Friday” offers free rentals, food and music from noon to 4 p.m. and has been very successful. In fact, this entire season has been a banner one for the rink.
Steen said, “User numbers are up significantly. There are a lot of people using the rink, more so than in years past.”
This weekend might be the last for the season, with longer days and warmer temperatures, so call the hotline to be sure the rink is open at 541-263-0715.
Fundraising to support the rink is under way with raffle for a three-day guided deer hunt on the Zumwalt Prairie this fall.
Tickets are $20 each or six for $100 and only 600 are being offered. The drawing is April 15.
Call Mike Hansen at 541-432-0272 in the evenings or send a check made out to “Wallowa Valley Community Ice Rink Raffle” to 804 S. Lake St., Joseph, OR 97846. Make sure to include a return address and contact information if mailing a check.
A dinner and dance is scheduled to support the rink March 8 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Lear’s Main Street Pub and Grill in Enterprise.
Matt Harshman and his All-Star Band will be performing from 7 to 10 p.m. All proceeds from the purchase of food will be donated to the Wallowa Valley Community Ice Rink.