MISSOULA — The Glacier Ice Rink is almost a 24-hour facility with the amount of programming they try to pack into the rink. The ice sports community says it needs a new rink, but what it looks like -- and how to pay for it -- is still a bit slippery.
The second phase of the Missoula County Fairgrounds redevelopment plan brings a lot of attention to a new 4H facility and a new ice rink with a third sheet of ice. Members of the ice sports community that’s huge because right now Missoula’s only two ice sheets are filled to capacity
"Ultimately it comes down to serving kids in our community and our families. And we can't do that with our two sheets of ice all our programs are at capacity," Glacier Ice Rink executive director Laura Henning said.
"For my 12U, 10U, 6U, 8U -- at each of those age levels, I’m single digits away from saying I don’t have any more room in my program I have to turn people away," Youth Hockey director Grace Hoene told MTN News.
Figuring skating officials also said their programs have no more room for growth and need another sheet to continue development also. As a matter of fact, the ice is so scarce that some user groups have games at 11:30 at night.
"I’m one of the people who plays at 11:30 at night and its tough," Henning said. "what we have seen with our adult participation is we are seeing a lot of people who played two or three divisions are not doing that anymore because they can do one night of an 11 clock game but they can’t do multiple nights it's just really hard to get up and try to function."
While ice rink redevelopment clearly is needed, there are questions about where the money would come from. Some 60% of Missoulians who took part in a survey about the redevelopment plans said they would support a bond measure to fund part of the rink.
"I think a lot of the projects that we have done for Glacier Ice Rink over the years have definitely been community involvement," Henning added. "Our new Zamboni any improvements that we have made to the rink have truly been a community effort you have large donors and then you also have a lot of smaller donors who want to feel like they are a part of the community and help out so I think it would be a combination of both."
A new rink would also mean ice would be available year-round which means figure skaters might finally be able to train for early regional qualifying tournaments. Meanwhile, for hockey, it means finally being able to train in the offseason on the ice with no more taking shots on the shot board in the corner of the rink.
The new 4-H facility would also help the ice rink by removing their need for the ice rink during the Western Montana Fair.