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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 2 - 8, 2002


Rink closure hits 
hockey players hard

Left out in the cold

Express Staff Writer

Sports incite passion.

So itís understandable that the recent news of the Sun Valley indoor ice rink closing throughout the winter has aroused passionate emotions on both sides of the issue.

It has far-reaching impacts on the valleyís recreational ice hockey programs this winter because Sun Valley has the only indoor rink in the area.

On Sept. 18, Lana Breazeale, director of recreation at Sun Valley Company, issued a fax "To All Interested Parties" which cited the following rink closures:

Oct. 11 to Nov. 26 and Feb. 10 to March 11. The statement went on to say the ice may not be available Jan. 6-27. Summing up, thatís about 13 weeks of prime skating time.

The closures are the direct result of extensive renovations by Sun Valley Company on the banquet and conference facilities at the Sun Valley Inn.

Large conferences are usually staged at the Inn, but with the construction, some of the larger meetings and banquets are being moved to the indoor ice rink forcing out the skating programs.

"This is not something we do lightly," Sun Valley marketing director Jack Sibbach said. "We donít want to see the hockey programs interrupted, but there is no good time to do this. The facilities are horribly outdated and this will make a big improvement."

Sun Valley Suns player John Miller said, "The ripple effect is huge. I donít think Sun Valley understands."

Perhaps, but Sun Valley does seem aware of the implications. "We all would all like better news," Breazeale stated.


The project outline

Itís a major project, according to Gordon Flade, Sun Valley maintenance director who is overseeing the construction.

He said, "We are demoing a lot of the entryway from the porte-cochŤre to the old lobby. We are also demoing the Continental Cafeteria and the main lobby. As soon as the jazz festival is over (mid-to late-October) we will start on the interior.

"The Limelight Room is going to have a complete faceliftópaint, carpeting, new doors, new ceiling, new heating, venting and air conditioning system."

Asked when the project will be completed, Flade said the estimate is late spring 2003.

He said, "We are hoping to have the Continental Cafeteria, main lobby and entry area done before Christmas, and have the convention and meeting facilities done around the first of June."


Far-reaching impacts

Besides figure skating, the Sun Valley indoor ice rink has been home ice to five different ice hockey organizations throughout the years.

They include the Sun Valley Suns, Sun Valley Womenís Hockey, Senior League Hockey, B League Hockey and Sun Valley Junior Hockey.

The organizations consist of 26 teams on which an estimated 500 people, including children, participate.

Hockey season generally runs from October to April, Like many similar facilities, the rink is in use a proverbial 24-7, between practices, games and tournaments.

The program that may be seriously compromised is the Sun Valley Suns senior menís team. It has played at the rink Friday and Saturday nights continuously over the past 27 years. The team also practices two nights a week.

"Itís a huge hit to our program," nine-year Suns wing John Miller remarked. "If we only have a five-week program, we wonít bother."

Last season, one of their most successful ever, the Suns played 30 gamesó24 at home.

Under current restrictions, the Suns could schedule a 16-game home season, but four of the openings are the week before and after Christmasóproblematic dates for teams to travel to and from the Valley.

Team captain Chris Benson said, "We can have 16 (games) if we go to April 12, which stretches it. It will be tough to keep the townsfolk interested and enthused if we play three weeks and have three weeks off. It wonít do much for crowd support which is the backbone of our organization."

Girlsí high school coach and B League commissioner Danny Thomas tried to put things in a positive light.

He said, "We are going to do our best. We are going to take whatever time we can get from Sun Valley and do the rest outdoors. And we are going to try and make it fun. Who knows? It could bring the community together."


Temporary solutions

Dan Gorham, president of Sun Valley Junior Hockey, said the youth teams will try and work around the closure.

"What we have done is design a season from Dec. 1 to Feb. 20. Ideally, we will be inside all 12 weeks, but we might be displaced for two weeks. If that happens, we might go to Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey," he said.

The Wood River Valley does have two free outdoor rinks at Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey and Atkinson Park in Ketchum.

Both are bracing for the extra skaters this winter, but the Hailey park is the only one seriously considering changes to accommodate the displaced hockey players.

Hailey board member Beje Reynolds said, "We are working on boards. We have a sample segment going. We have enough of a sheet of ice that we can accommodate two rinks, but itís going to be total pond hockey. Itís going to be cold, especially in the dark."

The four-year-old Hailey rink is a non-profit organization run solely by volunteers.

"We will still maintain the ice, even though this is going to add quite a bit to the equation," board member Diane Heiner said.

Ketchum Recreation Director Terry Tracy of Atkinson Park said the lack of lights, liability issues and cost make putting up boards in Ketchum a moot point.

"We are limited, but maintenance is the main reason we canít consider it," Tracy said.

Sun Valley briefly weighed the option of erecting boards.

Sibbach said, "We had considered putting up boards, but not anymore. It is cost prohibitive and there are liability issues. Then what do you do with the boards, which cost $25,000, after you are done using them?"


What the future holds

The problems the closure have created have also opened up dialogue on what many townspeople consider a pressing issue: the need for another enclosed ice rink in the Wood River Valley.

"I think this could be a catalyst and people will realize how much we need as rink in Hailey," Reynolds said.

Two community centers currently in the planning stages, the Bill Janss Center in Ketchum, and the 5B Sports Center in Hailey, would house indoor ice rinks.

Alex Orb of the Bill Janss Center remarked, "On one hand Sun Valley is a business that has to run like one. You canít fault them for making improvements. On the other, it does show that as a town and community we can take charge of our own destiny, providing a place for youth and adults."

For now, people who play hockey find themselves at the mercy of both Sun Valley Company and the weather.

With optimum conditions the outdoor rinks could be running in early December. Until then, people will have to be flexible and creative.

Some teams have scheduled practice time at Ice World in Boise. Others will travel to more tournaments.

Even Sibbach, whose son plays junior hockey, sounded a little downcast at the prospect of the rink shutting down.

"Itís like a bad root canal," he said. "But it has to be done."



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