Contractors and volunteers help lay tubing for the refrigeration system for the Home Hockey Association ice rink. The rink will be part of the legacy of the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
Photo by Hal Spence
Dogged determination, sweat equity and the generous donations of corporations, foundations, local business and hockey enthusiasts are making a dream come true in Homer.
An indoor hockey rink, under construction on the Homer Spit, will hold opening ceremonies April 2.
Last weekend, contractors began installing 10 miles of tubing that will carry the refrigerant to freeze the ice. They had a lot of help from parents and dozens of high school students, mostly hockey players, who pitched in. Such volunteer help has served to hold down costs, said Harry Rasmussen, president of the Homer Hockey Association.
Indeed, the degree to which the community has participated at all levels has been remarkable, he said.
Combining to bring the rink to reality monetarily are grants from the Kenai Peninsula 2006 Arctic Winter Games ($400,000),
which will hold the curling competition and cultural events in Homer next year, the Rasmuson Foundation ($500,000), the Murdock Charitable Trust ($125,000), and others.
The building itself was erected by English Bay Corp. and leased to the Homer Hockey Association for 20 years.
"We're in a partnership with English Bay Corp.," Rasmussen said. "They gave us a heavily subsidized rate."
The low rent will be in effect for 10 years and then converted to a market value.
"If not for the Rasmuson Foundation (no relation) and the Arctic Winter Games, this wouldn't be here," he said.
The new rink will be a legacy of the 2006 games. Less measurable than "bricks and mortar," perhaps, but no less a legacy is the community spirit infusing the project.
"We are really proud of this," Rasmussen said. "We have over 50 businesses here in Homer that will be paying $500 a year into this building to support hockey."
The association is raising funds and in-kind help in other ways. For instance, Napa Auto Parks supplied a Zamboni battery, Precision Auto has agreed to tune the Zamboni, and the Homer Snomads have donated $3,000 for a Zamboni edger. Wells Fargo is paying $9,000 for a scoreboard. The Alderfer Group, a real estate firm, has agreed to pay $2,000 to have advertising on the Zam. And that's only a partial list.
"It's really the small businesses and the community that are making this happen, along with the legwork of the Homer Hockey Association. It's been a lesson in perseverance," Rasmussen said.
All 42 boards surrounding the rink will be covered in advertising that's already been paid for, he said.
The rink is expected to close during the summer months for the first couple of years because, at the moment at least, there is no money to purchase a covering for the iced surface. Such flooring is estimated to cost roughly $160,000.
Once that is secured, however, the massive indoor space would be available for conventions and commercial events such as home or boat shows. The building has a large retractable door installed with that in mind.
Baseball and softball players could tune up their batting and pitching skills in the winter months inside the building if a way can be found to install a batting cage, Rasmussen said.
While the steel beam structure is plenty big to hold the National Hockey League-size rink, there was little room left for stands. The building uses the longest single-span steel beams allowed 97 feet.
Designing a wider span would have driven costs up another $400,000, so they settled for limited seating, which will be built at two of the corners of the rink, Rasmussen said. Spectators still will have plenty of standing room along the boards and glass glass that the heating and circulation system will keep from fogging, he said.
Four locker rooms will provide changing space, even for tournaments. Two of them have shower facilities. There's a separate changing room for girls.
All the in-kind help has kept costs down and stretched every dollar, Rasmussen said.
"We have tried to be as efficient as we can," he said. "This is, by far, the least expensive ice in the state because there is so much in the way of community giving. It's really been a labor of love."
Homer's only ice rink is a deteriorating outdoor facility behind Homer Middle School that lacks a refrigeration unit. That makes keeping good ice a problem, especially during warmer winters.
To say there is enthusiasm for hockey in this community would be an understatement. A few years ago, when winters were a bit colder, the association registered as many as 150 young players each year a real commitment by parents who often had to drive to central Kenai Peninsula or Anchorage for games and practice.
This year, 104 signed up for the weekend caravans north. By April, however, they'll be enjoying "home ice," and next year the community should begin reaping the benefits of the influx of visiting teams and supporters coming south to Homer instead.
The prospect of less travel alone is likely to generate even more enthusiasm for the sport around Homer, Rasmussen predicted.
"I can guarantee you we'll have 150 signed up the next time we have registration," he said.
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