Stumptown Ice Den open for summer

While the summer heat has firmly settled into the Flathead Valley, inside the Stumptown Ice Den it remains a refreshing 40 F. Puffy jackets and mittens recommended.
“It’s so nice in here and we don’t even have air conditioning,” rink manager Greg Harms said Monday as he prepared snacks for dozens of young skaters in the Learn-To-Skate program.
Local skating groups for years pushed to have year-round ice at the Ice Den. That wish became reality this summer when management of the city facility was turned over to the Whitefish Sports Facility Foundation.
While it’s too soon to know exactly how much use the rink will see in the summer months, early reports suggest it’s been well received.
“It’s our first summer and the rink hours are getting booked up,” said Chad Goodwin, director of the Glacier Skate Academy.
The city managed the facility since it was built in 2003, until last fall when skating groups requested the opportunity for a management agreement. The city agreed to terms with the Whitefish Sports Facility Foundation, and soon after plans were made to extended the skating season from eight months to year-round.
According to Harms, the rink’s budget goals for summer are being met and even exceeded due to an unforeseen demand for ice time. Summer camps, ice shows, learn-to-skate lessons, stick and puck and adult hockey are all vying for rink hours. Glacier Skate alone has secured a minimum of 20 hours a week, two additional hockey skills camps are planned for August, and Glacier Skate has its annual summer ice show scheduled for Aug. 20 and Aug. 27.
“It’s been hugely successful,” Harms said. “There’s even a waiting list for adult hockey,”
“It’s getting more use than we ever expected,” Goodwin added, noting that 30 children attended the most recent learn-to-skate program.
The public open skate times are proving to be popular, as well.
“We’re getting a lot of use from tourists,” Goodwin said. “They come in here and want to cool off.”
Last week, Glacier Skate teamed up with HKC Hockey to host the invitational Whitefish Prospects hockey camp for elite junior hockey players. Thirty-five skaters from across the U.S. signed up to attend. Coaches included NHL scouts and professional players.
Goodwin pointed to the Prospects camp as a prime example of why skating groups pushed for summer ice. He noted the positive economic impact such a camp has in the community.
“From Bozeman, Billings, Missoula — towns that don’t have ice — kids are coming up here to skate,” he said.
Harms said that just last week he spoke with families from Helena and California who came to Whitefish just to skate on the summer ice.
“They made the special trip to Whitefish just to skate here,” Harms said.
“The word is getting around. After an event, I’ll get phone calls from folks who hear about us and are interested in renting ice time.”
Goodwin says upgrades at the rink, including a Low-E ceiling and an electronic management and alarm system, have helped keep the facility running smoothly and efficiently in the hotter months.
“With the alarm, we can react right away and save the ice if something goes wrong,” he said.
Purchase and installation costs for the Programmable Logic Controller was split between the city and the rink management group.
Harms said that beyond “ordinary challenges” with keeping ice down, all the new equipment at the rink is operating as it should.

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