CAPE ELIZABETH — What until recently was an empty lot behind Gull Crest Fields off Spurwink Avenue was packed Friday night, with hockey players, figure skaters and families who just wanted to spend some time outside and on the ice.
“Because you can’t live in Maine and not get into winter sports, ” said Amanda Leen, who was at a temporarily opened pilot rink with her daughters Sophie and Cecilia.
The event was a sneak preview by a mostly volunteer group in Cape Elizabeth, advocating for a permanent open-air ice arena in the community.
Jay Brandeis, who was helping shovel freshly fallen snow from the ice with other volunteers, said the effort began as a backyard-style rink three years ago, behind Cape Elizabeth’s town hall.
“We were at mother nature’s mercy, ” Brandeis recalled, leaning on a large yellow spade as his 10-year-old son and other young skaters had been playing hockey. That rink was smaller, and harder to clean.
If all goes according to plan, Brandeis said he and other rink advocates hope to open a permanent full-scale industry in 2024.
Operating the rink will give volunteers experience with facility maintenance, Zamboni operation and the organization of events such as “learn to skate” classes and hockey practices, stated Julie Furt, chairperson of the nonprofit arena group.
“The purpose of the temporary rink is to learn and understand what it takes to operate a rink, ” she said.
While they have had the help of professionals at IceOps, LP Murray & Sons and Terradyn Consultants, the group has relied on upward of 50 volunteers to bring the temporary rink to fruition, the girl said.
“The majority of the round-the-clock ice making, and those types of activities, have been volunteer-run, ” Furt mentioned. “Our Zamboni drivers are learning to drive a Zamboni. Even monitoring the snow and providing Zamboni coverage is going to be on a volunteer basis. ”
The arena group sees Friday’s open skate as a proper kickoff event, with more activities to follow.
They will host “learn to skate” lessons, starting at 8 a. m. on Saturday, followed by “learn to play” hockey sessions at 9 a. m. for kids. The particular Cape girls’ and boys’ high school hockey teams will begin practicing at the rink in the near future and other public activities are usually planned.
The open-air arena proposed for Gull Crest Fields will provide sorely needed ice time for hockey teams plus community members, the group says. They also plan to use the market as a venue for other events, such as small concerts. Recreational spaces within the planned facility may offer activities like yoga and exercise courses.
The project, estimated to cost $5 million, would be privately funded.
To learn more about the arena project, scheduled actions at the temporary rink, and for status updates, visit capearena. org or the Cape Community Arena Facebook page.
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