By Adam Quandt
Summer and warm weather might still be on most people’s minds, but ice is setting in at the Orono Ice Arena.
The first phase of the three-phase renovation project at the arena was completed in August. Phase one of the project brought the Olympic-size rink in 15 feet to match the majority of NHL-sized rinks in the area.
“It’s amazing how much more room we have with the rink moved in 15 feet from Olympic size to NHL size,” Orono Youth Hockey Association President Pete Eckerline said in an email.
The arena was originally built in the late 90s with the help of private loans and donations, and has been mostly untouched in terms of updating since its construction.
“Some things in the arena are just in disrepair,” Eckerline said in a past interview with the Pioneer.
The idea behind all of the renovations is to give kids facilities similar to those offered by other programs in the area, in hopes to keep kids in Orono.
“We’re trying to develop high-level championship teams and you need facilities to go with that,” Eckerline said in a past interview with the Pioneer.
According to Eckerline, the ice is back in on the now NHL-sized rink and the kids are back to skating on it.
Since the completion of the resizing, hockey parents and kids in both the youth and high school hockey programs were at the rink painting, cleaning and freshening things up, in order to get everything ready for the reopening last week.
Phases two and three of the renovation and update project is set to include updating and creating new locker rooms, constructing a mezzanine training level above the rink and a new dehumidification system.
The current locker rooms in the arena were originally designed as storage closets, which were later transformed into locker rooms.
“We just need to upgrade these facilities,” Eckerline said in a past interview with the Pioneer. “The current ones are not a healthy situation.”
The mezzanine training level above the rink comes due to the extra space provided by the shrinking of the Olympic-sized rink.
According to Eckerline, the updates and renovations are scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1.
The renovation and update project has been funded by fundraising by all of the Orono hockey organizations.
All three phases of the renovations were expected to cost somewhere between 1.75 million and 2 million dollars.
Eckerline said that fundraising efforts have already passed the $1 million mark and the organization is within $300,000 of their goal.
“We hope with continued community support we can reach our goal,” Eckerline said in an email.
Eckerline said that the ice will remain in the rink throughout the construction period, so that “the rink will generate much needed revenue.”
More information on the Orono Ice Arena updates can be found online at www.oronoicearena.com. Those with questions or are interested in donating can contact the organization via email at [email protected] or can call Pete Eckerline at 612-867-8371.
“Twenty-five years ago a handful of community members came together and scraped together funds to build the rink in Orono,” Eckerline said in an email. “Now it is time to prepare it for the next 25 years, which these changes will help with.”