Ice rink and events center good for kids and the community

By Anne Barth February 18, 2009 02:46 pm

As we watch the excitement building on television about the 2010 Olympics, hear that inspiring music theme and realize it is only an eight- or nine-hour drive from La Grande to Vancouver, B.C., isn’t it fun to envision yourself or your kids getting out on a rink and skating to cool music or your kids picking up a hockey stick and scrimmaging with friends?

Don’t you wish you or your kids could take part in some of the activities you see?

Maybe we have a future Olympian in our town, but without a skating rink no one would ever know. It’s time to change that and try to build an ice rink and events center.

Recently, the “Today’’ show featured a female ice hockey player talking and showing her skills on the Rockefeller Center ice.

Did you know there are 10 men’s hockey teams and eight women’s hockey teams from various countries including the USA competing in the Olympics?

Do we have a future Wayne Gretzke here and don’t know it? We have found six hockey coaches in the area who are eager to coach.

Also, it has been shown through the years how popular the figure skating part of the Olympics is. Not only do the skaters get medals, they also have the opportunity to turn their skill into a lucrative income for several years after they earn their medals. With three dance studios in La Grande, maybe we have a future Michelle Kwan here and just don’t know it yet. Dance is an excellent start to becoming a graceful skater.

There are so many reasons to want a rink here. Not only to have our own fun, but to bring tourists to town to watch or even play in tournaments. While here, they would spend money in our retail businesses, our motels, gas stations and restaurants.

The small town of McCall, Idaho, often has as many as 12 teams for tournaments.

We could have all of this if people in our town would pull behind our foundation, Friends of La Grande Ice and Event Centre, today and help us.

Our foundation has done almost three years of research on the feasibility of a rink here. We have no doubt it would support itself as we build programs for people who want to skate or watch whatever is happening there.

We will have an extra floor stored that can be put on top of the ice for other functions such as inline hockey skating, concerts, exhibitions or whatever requires a large arena, without having to melt and then rebuild the ice. There are several inline skating hockey teams that travel to towns to play tournaments. We could have teams that do that also.

All of our legal requirements are in place including nonprofit status for donations that can be used as a tax write-off.

At this time we need help raising local money in order to show the large granters that we have support from our community. In order to do this, we need volunteers’ help doing fundraising to earn seed money to show local support.

We have already found the architect we want. He designed the rink in McCall, which was recently featured in the national magazine Rink. It has become the centerpiece of McCall and is worth going and trying out or at least seeing it. It is the heart of the town.

Our goal is also to go as green as possible, including a system in which the ice grooming shavings from the Zamboni recycle back into the heat and water system.

We realize our project is an expensive one, but the studies we have done have been very encouraging. We have joined the national organization, Star, that helps oversee and advise figure skating, hockey, inline skating and rinks. They are great mentors to us with weekly updates in the world of skating. They are always willing to answer our questions.

To quote from an Observer editorial:

“High school tournaments, whether they be for athletics or other activities, are good for kids, families and communities. Students get a chance to compete and show their stuff, families get to partake in their kids’ activities and communities benefit from the students and families going to local restaurants, shopping and staying in local motels. There’s a good reason for businesses to get behind these events and to roll out the red carpet when these events occur. They make a difference for our kids and our community.”

An ice rink in La Grande also fits the bill.

Anne Barth is president of the non-profit Friends of La Grande Ice and Event Centre. People interested in finding out more, or in volunteering, can e-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or cal 963-8143 or 910-0866.