Idaho Falls indoor ice rink opens Saturday

Oct 8th, 2015 | By | Category: Pack your bags
HANNAH LEONE/IDAHO STATE JOURNAL    The Joe Marmo/Wayne Lehto ice arena in Idaho Falls opens Saturday, Oct. 10, for its 2015-16 season. Crews will install ice in the rink during the prior week.

HANNAH LEONE/IDAHO STATE JOURNAL
The Joe Marmo/Wayne Lehto ice arena in Idaho Falls opens Saturday, Oct. 10, for its 2015-16 season. Crews will install ice in the rink during the prior week.

By HANNAH LEONE
hleone@journalnet.com  

The only enclosed ice rink in Southeast Idaho will open Saturday for its regular six-month season.

While plans to open the outdoor ice rink in Chubbuck’s Capell Park are still thawing out, the Joe Marmo/Wayne Lehto ice arena in Idaho Falls is kicking off its 2015-16 season with free lessons followed by a public skate. Free 20-minute lessons for all ages are scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Public skate should start at 2:30 p.m.

Throughout the season, about three dozen youth and adult teams practice at the rink. Individual figure skaters often rent the space, too, said PJ Holm, Idaho Falls’ superintendent of recreation. The hourly ice user practice fee is increasing this year, from $70 to $85. For private events, it’s $130, and USAA-sanctioned figure skating and hockey events also run higher. That’s still lower than rinks in Boise and Salt Lake City, which cost $185 and $500 per hour. But when the city council tried to make this year’s practice fee increase to $100, regular users fought it down to Holm’s proposed $85, he said.

“We have a culture of cheap ice here,” Holm said.

That’s in part because of levels of government subsidies, which the rink is trying to move away from, he said.

As a stipulation of one federal grant they hope to keep, the rink must be a multi-use facility, meaning it can’t be used for any one thing for more than half a year. From late March through the end of September, workers remove ice from the rink, which the city uses for other public and private events, Holm said.

Holm’s goal this year is to absorb many of the city’s contributions into the rink’s operating budget, figure out the true cost of operating the facility and calculate what it would take to break even each year, he said. The rink has been in the red the last couple of years. This season, with the help of increased rates and a more watchful eye, he’d like it to turn black.

The Idaho Falls rink has been enclosed since the late 1970s, Holm said. The ice surface is 85 feet by 190 feet. The facility includes a lobby, rental shop, snack bar and locker rooms.

Idaho Falls City Council recently approved a new Parks and Recreation master plan, which Holm and colleagues are still finalizing, to be implemented within the next five to 20 years. He hopes the new plan will include the framework for a second sheet of ice, near or adjacent to the current rink.

The existing rink has been booked solid in recent years, causing scheduling conflicts and cutting into ideal public skate times Holm would rather expand, he said.

“We are already bursting at the seams,” Holm said. “Youth hockey alone could use a second sheet of ice.”

The need for that second sheet is not contingent on the condition or schedule of ice rinks in Chubbuck or other Idaho cities, he said.

Chubbuck-Pocatello Hockey Association president Jim DiSanza said he hopes to open the outdoor rink later this year and through the end of February. It should be the first season operating with a refrigeration system; for the past two years, the rink has used only natural ice, he said. Someday, he’d like to see the rink enclosed, but said that’s still “a ways down the road.”

“I’ve learned never to say anything for sure about this rink, but we should be open late November, possibly early December,” DiSanza said. “We would like to eventually get it enclosed.”

More specific information about this season will be on the hockey association’s Facebook page by November, he said.

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