Effort begins to expand Truckee ice rink for hockey growth, year-round recreation
The Truckee-Tahoe Ice Rink Project committee includes: Jenny Fellows, Chris Fellows, Michel De Lafontaine, Phebe Bell, Rob Koster and Bob Yoder.
Online: Visit truckeetahoeicerink.com to learn more about the TTIRP.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Back in the late 1990s, Steve Randall had a revelation while with his kids at the Reno Ice Rink.
“I looked at the rink and I said to myself, ‘We need to have one,’” remembers Randall, general manager of the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District. “I came back and looked at my staff and said, ‘We’re going to build a rink (in Truckee).’”
With that, the TDRPD cobbled together an ice rink in patchwork fashion — purchasing dasher boards from a shutdown roller rink for 20 cents on the dollar and a condenser ice machine for 40 cents on the dollar.
Later, the district obtained rubber padding for walkways, recycling old conveyor belts used by Teichert Aggregates.
Before long, the Truckee Ice Rink — set in the Truckee River Regional Park, a half-mile south of downtown — opened to the public in 2000.
Though it was significantly smaller than a regulation-size rink, the 100-by-90-foot slab of ice suited the demand at the time.
“The intent, I always thought,” Randall said, “was if we put a smaller rink in, there would eventually be a demand for a larger one and Truckee would get a full-sized rink one day.”
Fifteen years later, a group of community members, the Truckee-Tahoe Ice Rink Project, is spearheading an effort to make that day comes sooner than later.
‘WE’VE OUTGROWN THE RINK’
With ice rink attendance the highest it’s been in three years — 11,906 people used the rink last year, roughly 1,000 more than two years ago — and the park and rec district’s youth and adult hockey leagues growing exponentially every year, the Ice Rink Project is advocating to bring Truckee a regulation-sized rink of 185-by-85 feet.
The group’s plan is to expand the current Truckee Ice Rink and add a permanent roof — the sides would remain open. This proposal was approved by the TDRPD at its Nov. 17 board meeting.
“There were probably 50 people who showed up to support it, and that’s just a small fraction of our groundswell of support,” TTIRP member Jenny Fellows said. “Truckee and North Lake Tahoe have a lot of hockey players, figure skaters, people who just want to skate recreationally. The main motivation is the community wants a bigger ice rink in an area that is known for winter recreation, and an area that is a gateway to Tahoe.”
THE HOCKEY EFFECT
The popularity of the TDRPD hockey leagues has played an especially big role in the community’s desire for a larger rink, said Michel De Lafontaine, who helped start the adult hockey league seven years ago.
“Since we started the league we’ve outgrown the rink,” De Lafontaine said. “We’ve gone from four teams to 13 teams, and now we have to turn people down. We pretty much use the rink seven days a week for hockey.
“If we had a full-sized rink then — as an example — for the skills (clinics), we could cut the rink in half; we could have 50 kids on one side and 50 kids on the other side. For pee wee, bantam and midget leagues, we could compete with the South Shore, Reno and Roseville. And our hope is once we get the rink going, we could have a high school team in the next five years.”
For this 2015-16 season, youth hockey clinics and leagues are completely full while the adult league is nearly at capacity, said Dan O’Gorman, TDRPD recreation superintendent.
Added Randall: “Hockey is now much bigger in the community than it was in the past.”
Along with hockey, the TDRPD rink, slated to operate from Nov. 28 to March 5 this season, offers broomball leagues, public skating, and group and private ice skating and ice dancing lessons.
EXTENDING THE SEASON
A key component to the TTIRP’s rink expansion plans is the roof addition.
After all, due to snow removal costs, the rec and park district’s operating expenses for the ice rink jump considerably during snow-filled seasons.
“The last three years were at approximately $32,000 a year,” O’Gorman said. “But the last snowy year it was $44,000. Our expenses are the highest when it snows.”
This is exactly why the TDRPD supports the TTIRP’s efforts to put a roof over the rink. Not only would it extend the season, it would save the district money.
“With a roof you can pretty much operate on a daily basis,” Randall said. “Right now, if it snows, we can’t operate. With a roof, you can operate if it’s snowing or raining or the sun gets too hot — the start of March the sun makes the ice start to melt. You would be able to operate a full winter season.”
While catering to the ice activities during the winter season is TTIRP’s chief motivation for expanding the rink, the group also wants to create a facility that can be utilized all year.
“We want to make it a multi-use facility so everybody can benefit from it,” said De Lafontaine, pointing to soccer and lacrosse as examples for offseason use.
COST OF PROJECT, NEXT STEPS
Fellows said it would cost between $1.5 and $2 million to enlarge the existing rink to regulation size and add a roof.
While the group doesn’t have “firm financials yet,” Fellows said a large portion of seed money would come from resident and Truckee Tahoe Airport Board member Jim Morrison, founder of the KaWyHa Foundation, a memorial foundation named in honor of his wife, Katie, and children, Wyatt and Hannah, who died in a plane crash in 2011.
Notably, Morrison and the KaWyHa Foundation recently helped close the gap for funding on the TDRPD aquatic center, which started construction last spring next to the Truckee Community Recreation Center.
“We’re hoping it can be privately funded, but if we need to go to public funding, we’re pretty confident we’ll raise the money,” Fellow said.
Currently, the TTIRP is designing the rink with an architect and plotting the site with an engineer before it presents its proposal to the Truckee Planning Division. The group hopes to present to the planning division right after the holidays, De Lafontaine said.
“We have a lot of energy behind this team, a very experienced team,” Fellows said of the TTIRP. “And we have the support of the parks and rec and the community, so we’re pretty excited.”
Randall, who’s been with the TDRPD for 25 years, said a handful of groups have “sprouted up” over the years in an effort to build a bigger ice rink, but “none as serious as this one.”
“They just have a passion for their interests,” he added. “They have a passion and they also see a need.”