Orono hockey programs push for arena upgrades

By Adam Quandt
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Winter may be behind us and hockey season might be over, but things are still very much in motion at the Orono Ice Arena.

Members of the Orono Youth Hockey Association and other members of the Orono hockey community are pushing for a three-phase renovation of the somewhat dated arena.

The arena was built in the late 90s with the help of private loans and donations. However, according to Orono Youth Hockey Association President Pete Eckerline, there wasn’t much money left to go into a “rainy day fund” for ongoing maintenance following the building’s completion.

“Some things in the arena are just in disrepair,” Eckerline said.

The first phase of the renovations is scheduled to begin on May 18 and will focus on shrinking the Olympic size rink down to the more widely used NHL size rink.

Eckerline said that currently the high school teams are forced to practice on other rinks when it comes time to prepare for sections, in order to adjust to the faster-paced play on the more common and more competitive NHL-sized rinks.

During the rink resizing, the arena board hopes to also make some improvements to the rink cooling system. The improvements, along with a smaller rink will hopefully make the arena more cost efficient and save money in the end.

Phase two will address issues regarding locker room facilities inside the arena. The current locker rooms were originally designed as storage closets, which were late transformed into locker rooms.

“It has always been a goal for better locker rooms for girls and boys,” Eckerline said. “The current ones are not a healthy situation.”

The current facilities also only offer one shower in the building, so outside arrangements for a team to shower at the high school rather than at the rink during competition.

“We just need to upgrade these facilities,” Eckerline said.

The third and final stage of the renovations are set to include the constructions of a mezzanine level above the rink. This new space will be possible due to the extra 15 feet on each side of the rink, because of shrinking the rink from Olympic size to NHL size.

The mezzanine level will provide an area for dryland practice opportunities, which Eckerline said are becoming more and more crucial to hockey programs.

“There are lots of options for how the space is used up there when it’s completed,” Eckerline said.

All three phases of the renovations are expected to cost somewhere between 1.75 million to 2 million dollars.

The organizations have already received enough funds through private donations for the first phase of the renovation, but are hoping to get more donors, local businesses and more involved to raise the funds for the next two phases. Eckerline said that the organizations are also looking in the possibility of grants to help with the project’s funding.

The idea behind the renovations is to give kids facilities similar to those offered by other programs in hopes to keep kids in Orono.

Eckerline and other members of the Orono hockey community also hope that the renovations will bring development programs and other programs to increase ice use to Orono.

“We’re trying to develop high-level championship teams and you need facilities to go with that,” Eckerline said.