Mentor Ice Arena turns 40 – News-Herald
As dozens of community members took to the ice for a Mentor Ice Arena’s 40th anniversary free skating celebration, complete with presentations, performances and prizes, it’s a safe bet that many enjoying the The afternoon of January 2 had little knowledge of the attraction notable history.
While the town’s recreation center has hosted many exhibits, games, programs, tournaments, and teams, the facility’s roots started humbly, and according to Mentor Recreation Superintendent Nita Justice, ironically enough.
“It all started with a field,” she said, “a field near the fire station that was flooded every winter and turned into a frozen pond. “
Naturally, the ice gradually began to attract a large number of people eager to put on their skates, and because it was so popular and so widely used, the city administration decided to consider building a ice rink that could support the hockey and figure skating interests of the community year round.
In mid-September 1982, the concept was brought to fruition when the doors to the Mentor Ice Arena opened, with queues.
The city manager and the board member who put the idea into motion were extremely progressive at the time, Justice noted, although, understandably, concerns remained.
“There were doubts during the planning process, which weighed heavily on the board members… .it was a significant cost to build the facility and they wondered if it would be used enough to support operations,” she declared. “At the end of the day, they voted to build the arena and it turned out to be a huge asset.
“Over a period of six years, not only did they develop a solid infrastructure and encouraged tremendous economic growth, but they also focused on the realization of goods and the construction of facilities that would better serve the residents of Mentor,” he said. added Justice. . “The arena was a vital and much anticipated part of the vision for the Civic Center complex. “
Among the instrumental administrators who made this vision a reality:
city manager – Edward J. Podojil; Chairman of the Council and Mayor – Donald E. Krueger; Vice-President of the Council and Vice-Mayor – Joseph P. Tiefenbach; Extraordinary Board Members – Marianthe Boyd, Donald E. Krueger and Lynne L. Mazeika; First pupil – Joseph P. Tiefenbach; Second room – Mildred M. Teuscher; Third Ward – Edward R. Walsh; and fourth room – James F. Struna.
The arena’s first manager was the late Gene Elkin, who was instrumental in establishing the policies and procedures that are still in place to this day.
“His contributions over his 16 years on the rink have helped lay a solid foundation to sustain all greatness to come,” Justice said.
Although still a city-owned facility, several high schools have used the arena for their hockey programs, with Lake Catholic, Mentor, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and Riverside as their home away from home.
To date, the arena offers “Learn to Skate” classes from 3 years to adulthood, a “very popular” after-school program for elementary school students and a competitive hockey program for youth, as well as leagues. hockey club, figure skating club, synchronized skating, camps, special events and more.
The facility, which also housed the Mentor Ice Breakers as part of the Federal Prospects Hockey League for two seasons (2018-2020), also has a concession stand, pro shop, meeting rooms and of a ballet hall.
As the arena has grown considerably over the past 40 years, educational programs have varied, with support from the city. The interest was so huge at first, just two years after opening a studio rink was added to provide more ice time.
In 1998, a second rink (known as the East Rink) was built to meet the demands for ice time needed by the growing community of ice lovers.
Current arena manager Bill Furman attributes these successful years to the many skaters and their families who have embraced the sport.
“This arena has hosted generations of recreational and competitive skaters over the past 40 years,” he said. “The lessons learned, achievements and friendships formed have been countless.
“When was the last time you saw a daughter, a mother and a grandfather all participate in the same activity together? It is a calling we are proud of and we are privileged to have been the second home of so many people over the years.
The arena has also hosted many skaters who have continued to perform at high levels in figure skating and hockey, either collegially or professionally.
The intensity synchronized skating team (formerly the Mentor Ice Diamonds) competed in local and national competitions, winning a medal at the 2015 US National Synchronized Figure Skating Championships (3rd place – intermediate division).
Mentor Youth Hockey has also won numerous championships over the years, with winning banners on display at the arena.
Additionally, over the years the arena has been recognized by many skating related organizations for various achievements / achievements including recognition from organizations such as Learn to Skate USA, USA Hockey, Zamboni Company, US Figure Skating and the US Ice Rink Association. .
Justice said the arena has had many “famous” skaters and even dancers through the gates throughout its existence.
“The arena has hosted many ice shows, including ‘Skate Dance Dream’, which brings together dancers from the ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ show, as well as Olympic, World and National level figure skaters to organize clinics. with young skaters, ”she said. “The arena has also brought in teams / groups like the Cleveland Monsters to host clinics and special events.”
Parks and Recreation Director Mentor Kenn Kaminski is thrilled with the activities and events that have graced the ice.
“The Mentor Ice Arena has been placed on the map with the national events that have sought Mentor as their preferred venue,” he said. “The hosting of the High School National Championships, the Ice Breakers and Skate Dance Dream productions have really proven to this community that our rink is a place of destination. “
To date, more than 300,000 visitors pass through the gates of the arena each year.
Recreation Coordinator Colleen Thomas, who has been affiliated with the Mentor Ice Arena since its opening, continues to marvel at the evolution of the rink.
“To be involved in different roles over the years has been an honor,” she said. “I am proud of what he has become in 40 years. Here are still forty years of pleasure in skating.