Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hailey Ice to break ground on rink

Donations allow group to target fall 2014 completion

Express Staff Writer

This conceptual drawing shows Phase 1 of the Hailey Ice outdoor refrigerated rink. Graphic courtesy of Hailey Ice

   The nonprofit, volunteer-run Hailey Ice organization said this week it has raised donations exceeding $1.1 million in the past year and plans to break ground in the spring of 2014 on construction of an outdoor refrigerated ice rink at Wertheimer Park in Hailey.
    Construction of the outdoor rink with covered ice is estimated to cost $1.8 million. It constitutes the first phase of a two-phase project that with additional fundraising will finish a fully-enclosed, 30,000-square-foot indoor ice rink facility on the site next to the Hailey Rodeo Arena.
    Hailey Ice Executive Director Sarah Benson and board Chairman Ron Fairfax jointly made the announcement about the plans. They hope the timing of the news will build momentum for further fundraising before the end of the fiscal year.
    The $1.1 million in donations and pledges has come from three special donors, they said.
    They are the Nancy Eccles and Homer M. Hayward Family Foundation; local benefactor Lynn Campion through The Barbara J. Hartley Fund and the Deer Creek Fund of the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation; and one local couple who wish to remain anonymous.
    To date, $425,000 of the estimated $1.8 million Phase 1 cost has been spent from previous Hailey Ice fundraising on planning, permits and foundation work to prepare for the refrigerated ice rink. Fairfax and Benson said an additional $300,000 in community contributions is needed to complete the first phase next year.
    Phase 1, due for completion in fall 2014, will include locker rooms, new side boards to enclose the rink surface, a concession stand and shade cloth on pulley systems that is used to divert sunlight and keep the ice operational from November through March.
    Completion of Phase 2 would bring the total project cost to $3.5 million. Hailey Ice estimates that another $2.1 million in donations is needed to finish the fully-enclosed, year-round indoor ice rink facility with locker rooms, bathrooms, bleachers and concessions.
    “Most of the major donors we have now would like to fully enclose the rink, so that’s our goal,” said Benson.
    Operated by Hailey Ice under a 20-year lease arrangement with the city of Hailey, the proposed ice rink is part of the 5.2-acre Werthheimer Park development at the south end of Hailey. In May 2010, city voters approved by a 71-29 percent margin a $3.5 million general obligation bond to develop at the site a new rodeo arena, and visitor center, as well as to make improvements to the public skate park.
    Voters were informed that only the ice rink would be built and managed privately. However, it was suggested that an anonymous donor would give Hailey Ice at least $800,000 if the bond passed, but that donation never materialized. Hailey Ice has never released the name of the donor, a man who has since passed away and was not part of the donations announced this week, Fairfax and Benson said.
    Now, the rink is the only part of the recreational park that has yet to be developed.
    “People have been waiting for this news for years,” said Fairfax, co-founder of Hailey Ice 14 years ago and the main proponent during that time for a permanent ice rink in Hailey.
    He added, “We’re real happy to be breaking ground.”
    “What an amazing year we’ve had. After 13 years of hard work it’s time to ‘Raise the Rink.’ We’re very excited,” Benson said.
    Admission fees at the new rink, income from hockey tournaments and other skating events will help pay for management and operations.
    Fairfax and Benson said Hailey Ice will continue to provide free public skating and free skating for people who choose to use the outdoor, non-enclosed ice surface that started last December inside the new rodeo grounds.
    “Our goal is to keep flooding the rodeo arena to provide free skating 45 to 50 days a year. And we will keep admission to the refrigerated rink as low in price as we can,” said Fairfax.
    Besides providing the community with a reliable ice surface at the proposed outdoor refrigerated ice rink, the project will expose more children to ice skating and hockey programs and bring more visitors into town for tournaments, Hailey Ice stated.
    Building a public outdoor rink manned by committed volunteers in Hailey has been a community project spanning several generations. It has traveled among many sites within the city.
    In the mid-1980s, parents hauled out borrowed fire hoses and made ice at Lawrence Heagle Park in Della View subdivision. One year, they made ice inside the old rodeo grounds arena. For most of 25 years between 1987 and 2012, the rink location was Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey.
    When Hailey Ice first proposed a permanent rink location, the city in 2003 offered land at Lion’s Park west of the Big Wood River. A location north of the current Albertson’s grocery store was also used for public skating.
    Making the ice and preparing the rink often took three weeks before the surface was functional—and then it was always dependent on the weather. Motivated by his children’s interest in skating, Fairfax and friends formed the Hailey Ice Park Committee in 1999.
    The committee included skating enthusiasts such as Tom Hanson, James Foster, Frank Alloway, Scott Heiner, Ken Ward, Ron Reynoso, Diane Heiner, Bege Reynolds and Jim Santa. For over 30 years, Power Engineers has been the main corporate booster of the succession of Hailey outdoor rinks.
    In 2000, the committee spent $5,000, half donated by Power Engineers, on the purchase of a used Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine from an equipment company in Alberta, Canada.
    The Canadian owner of the company actually towed the Zamboni all the way to Hailey. Since then, Hailey dentist Fairfax has driven the Zamboni in the Days of the Old West parade over the Fourth of July.
    By the time of the bond passage in 2010, the grassroots Hailey Ice organization had raised between $550,000 and $600,000 to pay for the rink.
    Fairfax, who was named grand marshal of the 2010 Hailey holiday parade for his civic efforts, has been the main provider of labor in a rink project that has always been labor-intensive. He said he’ll ask only one thing for his contributions—he wants to take the first skate on the new rink.
    Benson said Hailey Ice is a 501 non-profit corporation. Her mail address for donations is P.O. Box 4616, Hailey, ID 83333. She can be reached for more information at 720-3086 or The website is
    Benson said, “The bond passed by the community gave us the land. Otherwise, this is our baby—we’ve had to do it all by ourselves. It’s been four years, but we took ownership of what was needed to do and now are very excited to be going forward. Together we can make this project into a reality for our children, our families and the Wood River community.”

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