Skaters grateful for ice, hope to see indoor rink soon

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- The temperature is starting to drop, and many on the Western Slope are gearing up for the winter sports season. Besides skiing and snowboarding, there's also a strong ice following here in the Grand Valley.

The valley's only ice rink is gearing up to open next month. Though it isn't regulation size, it has allowed many to continue their passions of hockey and figure skating on the Western Slope. Still, many are hoping we'll soon see a full sheet of ice in the near future.

The NHL may still be in a lockout, but that’s not the case here.

"We are right in the midst of finalizing our schedules," Grand Valley Youth Hockey Association director Joey Kowalczyk said. "With the stability of at least having practice ice, that's really been a benefit for our association."

Without a regulation size rink in the valley, these skaters have to travel to play, but the Ice Skating Inc. ice -- full sheet or not -- has been a blessing for skating families since the Glacier Ice Arena melted away.

"There was a demand for ice in Grand Junction, and a lot of groups that were at The Glacier have been using our facility," Ice Skating Inc. executive director Curt Maki said.

After a successful season last year, Ice Skating Inc. will freeze its rink next month, and the nonprofit is working to keep the ice frozen 24-7 for skaters since it will only last through March.

"We had a lot of companies step up and actually make this happen last year," Maki said. "[This year] we're putting up sun shades; we're doing some things as far as asphalting around the rink itself."

These projects do come at a cost, and Ice Skating Inc. must raise the money for operational costs because it is a nonprofit organization. Its goal for this season is $100,000 to cover the cost of running the rink, purchasing and updating new equipment and supporting the programs.

From hockey to figure skating and even college broom-ball, the rink will offer more options this winter. Still, many are hopeful the valley will get its year-round, indoor rink back soon.

"There is a person interested; we're keeping our fingers crossed. We don't know when [it might be sold],” Glacier Ice Arena co-owner Kathryn Edwards said.

The Glacier Ice Arena owners say they don't want the rink sold as anything but a place skaters can call home.

"The kids did so awesome in such a short amount of time. It's for the community, and it's a community of skaters that we have a lot of feelings for," Edwards said.

There were around 200 kids signed up in youth hockey programs before The Glacier closed; now they’re down to about 50 players. If ice could be permanently frozen in the valley, however, that number could easily glide higher.

"Mesa County, with the population that we have, could easily support two ice rinks," Kowalczyk said.

Kowalczyk also says a year-round ice rink could also benefit local tourism, especially because we'd be one of the biggest cities to have ice between Salt Lake City and Denver.

Ice Skating Inc. programs are starting up next month. For detailed information on these programs or to donate to Ice Skating Inc., visit its website by clicking the link below.

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