La Grande needs ice rink

By Anne Barth April 13, 2010 02:45 pm

Wasn’t it exciting to watch the 2010 Olympics on television, hear the inspiring Olympic theme and our USA anthem played so many times as medals were put around our athletes’ necks?

With the Olympics comes skating — in several forms. Figure skating is among the most popular. The athletes not only can earn a medal, but they have the opportunity to turn their skill into a lucrative income as a pro skater in shows.

Maybe we have a future Michelle Kwan in Union County and just don’t know it. We just need an ice rink. With three dance studios in La Grande, potential skaters have an excellent start.

Having an ice rink is a great way to get youth off the street and into a productive team activity.

In McCall, Idaho, there is a successful high school club hockey team that is winning, and most of them are freshmen. They excel because they had the opportunity to start skating by advancing through youth programs. Think of how good they will be when they are seniors. Not only do they achieve a feeling of pride, but they have potential to receive scholarships to a college or get picked up on farm teams as a result of their exposure in high school games. Do we have a future Sidney Crosby here?

Our non-profit foundation, Friends of La Grande Ice and Event Centre, is trying to raise money to start a grassroots rink in the rundown tennis court at Pioneer Park for inline skating, floor hockey, broomball hockey and an open roller-skating rink to find out the level of interest in skating. We hope to see enough interest to someday have a real ice rink — a year-round, indoor rink.

Is this just a crazy dream or can our community pull together and make it happen?

Not only would a rink add to local opportunities, but it would bring tourists to town to watch or play in tournaments. While here they would spend money in our retail businesses, our motels, gas stations and restaurants. The small town of McCall often has as many as 12 teams there for tournaments.

We have found six experienced hockey coaches eager to play and coach hockey locally to both youth and adults.

We need people to get behind Friends of La Grande Ice and Event Centre. We have a website at lagrandeicerink.org. Volunteers are working to make the site more informative.

A group of college students were talking to me about having a skating rink. “Now that the bowling alley is gone we have nowhere to get together so we go to bars and drink,” they told me.

Is that what we want for our town’s college students? Let’s make it a fun town for them to come to.

Our foundation has done almost four years of research on the feasibility of a rink here and have no doubt it would support itself as we build programs and find people who want to skate or watch events. We realize it will take time and combined effort to build our programs, but we have faith it will happen.

“If we build it they will come.” Could that happen here? We want to have an extra floor 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 rebuild the ice. We have no venue as large as this one in La Grande. We will never have it unless the members of our community step up and help.

At this time we need help raising money in order to show prospective grantors that we have support from our community. In order to do this we need volunteers to help with fundraising, writing grants and helping us earn seed money.

I have lost track of how many folks, both youth and adults, have told me since the 2010 Olympics how much they would like to play hockey, learn to skate and play curling. Curling was only shown on CNBC and many people missed seeing it. Of those who saw it, many have expressed interest to me to learn to curl. It is a fun sport that is very social and doesn’t require skating.

There’s a good reason for businesses to get behind our goals and to roll out the red carpet to help us reach our goals of an inline rink in the park and our future indoor year-round ice rink. They could both help make a difference for our community. For information on how you can help, please call 541-963-8143 or 541-910-0866, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Anne Barth is president of Friends of La Grande Ice and Event Centre.