On thin ice

Vandalism, poor drainage visible problems with indoor rink in Oak Creek

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— At the last two Oak Creek Town Board meetings, residents have asked the board to address the state of the town's hockey rink.

The floor of the outdoor rink has poor drainage and puddles of water have gathered. The Plexiglas that separates fans from the puck has been repeatedly vandalized, and much of it lays in pieces, buried in the surrounding weeds.

During the summer, area youths have used the empty rink floor as a skate park, despite the water puddles, but the adjoining warming hut sees no use during the offseason.

"The whole place looks abandoned," one resident said.

Parent Pete Hange, father of two hockey players, said the Oak Creek Hockey Association is planning to fix the problem next month.

He said the disrepair is nothing new. The rink, built with community dollars and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant in 1997, is used from mid-December, when temperatures drop consistently to hold a sheet of ice in the outdoor rink, until mid-February.

Before December temperatures sustain a consistent ice sheet, the Oak Creek hockey teams rent ice time from rinks in Craig and Steamboat Springs.

Traditionally, every October, parents begin work on the rink. They plan to repaint the surface before the ice goes down, replace the Plexiglas and make other necessary upgrades.

Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman said hockey parent Tim Corrigan promised her the hockey association would raise $5,500 for rink repairs this season. The amount will be matched by Oak Creek, Rodeman said, with the $2,200 set aside for the rink in the town's budget.

The board will have to vote on how the money is used, she said.

"We have had to battle with the town administration in the past over help with the hockey rink," Hange said. "This administration is starting to work with us a lot better."

The hockey association owes one more payment on a Zamboni it bought in 1997, but it needs a new engine, Rodeman said.

The group also plans to replace doors on the warming hut with heavier doors that will be harder to pry open than the current doors, which were damaged during a break-in this summer.

Once hockey season begins, volunteers from the hockey association take responsibility for grooming the ice, cleaning the warming hut and doing any needed repair work.

"To be honest, we spend so much time over there working on the rink during the winter that by the end of hockey season, we are pretty burnt out," Hange said. "In February, we basically don't want to spend another minute there until next season."

Rodeman proposed in a phone interview that the warming hut could be used during the summer as a recreation center for youths.

Hange agrees that increased use of the facility would discourage vandalism, but no one has approach the hockey association directly with such an idea.

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