Lyall de la Mater, 16, played his first hockey game under the new roof of Oak Creek's hockey rink a week ago.
The game, he said, was really fun, with conditions so good it didn't seem like Oak Creek's rink.
"Usually the ice is really melted and there's 5 inches of snow," de la Mater said. "(This time) it was really nice."
His brother, 14-year-old Dylan de la Mater, remembered games where the puck got buried in the snow and much of the practice was spent shoveling snow.
"It wasn't fun," he said.
But those days are gone.
Oak Creek's hockey rink -- now called the Four Seasons Rink -- has a steel roof, which means a longer season and no snow shoveling for members of the Oak Creek Hockey Association, which includes members from throughout South Routt County.
A dedication ceremony for the new roof was held Friday night.
There, the more than 100 people and businesses that made donations of about $500,000 in time, material and money to build the roof were recognized.
The project to construct the roof began when Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, also the town's grant writer, secured a $200,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado.
Steel prices rose sharply, and suddenly the grant would pay only for the 143 tons of steel the roof required -- or enough to load up five semi-trailers.
"As soon as I found out it was going to cost every dime (of the grant) for steel, I had serious doubts as to whether the building was going to go up ever," Rodeman said.
But volunteers surprised Rodeman, coming out in force, donating money and materials and machinery and precious time and skills, to get the roof up.
"They just all jumped in unbelievably," Rodeman said. "Just like it was their neighbor's barn.
"I think it rivals any barn raising anywhere," she said about the project. "I think it's quite the historical thing."
Seven individuals who made significant contributions were recognized with plaques.
They were Larry Bereznak of Loadstone Ltd., the project leader; Joe Pete LoRusso, who erected the steel building; Bill Honeyford of Bill Honeyford Concrete, who poured and finished the concrete; Craig Haverley of Primo Construction, who helped put up the steel structure and roof; Jim Stegmaier of Yampa Valley Consulting and Design, who did the foundation engineering; Clyde Iacovetto of H.I. Cranes, who operated a crane donated by he and his partner, Kurt Harvey; and Dave de la Mater of Northwest Electrical Services who did the electrical work.
The town of Oak Creek also will be recognized with a plaque for its support and monetary donations, which now are estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.
LoRusso estimated his donation at close to $300,000. It was his last job with his company Valley Fill and Iron, which he has had for three decades.
Rodeman asked him to help with the roof when she found out the grant would cover only the building, and LoRusso jokes he was "stupid enough to say yes" and agree to help if the town received the grant.
When the grant was approved, he said he had to keep his word, even though it meant putting up the roof -- which didn't arrive until October -- in cold, miserable weather, working every day for a month straight.
LoRusso has lived in Steamboat Springs for years, and though his only connection with hockey is that he played some in high school, he wanted to contribute to help the youths.
"I actually did it because of the kids," LoRusso said. "If this can keep one kid out of trouble, it'd be worth it."
Similarly, Haverley doesn't live in Oak Creek, but said he helped put a roof on Steamboat's ice rink years earlier, has friends in Oak Creek and wanted to help out.
"It's just the satisfaction of working real hard and seeing a lot come of it," Haverley said.
Iacovetto said he and Harvey pulled one of their cranes off another job for a month, and Iacovetto operated it, putting in about 16 workdays. He estimated that donation at about $20,000.
Iacovetto said his children play in the Oak Creek Hockey Association, and that he was on the Town Board when the original ice rink and warm-up hut were built more than a decade ago.
"I'm a native from South Routt County, and the only way that small communities can get anything like that is the volunteer help that always seems to be there," Iacovetto said.
He said he was most impressed by the volunteers without strong ties to South Routt who came in and made huge donations of time and materials.
"There were people who were out there who had no kids," Iacovetto said. "I'm not even sure they knew how to skate, but they just wanted to help."
Dave de la Mater said he never hesitated to help with the ice rink because his children are involved in hockey, not to mention that he has been a coach for years.
"I feel good that we could help out in our way," he said. "I really don't care what I put into it (in volunteer hours). (There have been) so many hours over the years you put into removing snow, so really, it's a no-brainer."
There have been several bumps along the way for building the new roof, including that the construction was completed without getting permits because the new roof was partially on a small strip of land that the town did not own. Those bumps were overcome, Rodeman said. The town now is in the final stages of buying that strip of land for $4,320.
"I don't believe it would ever have been erected any other way then the way it went," Rodeman said. "Yes, there were some troubles in there."
Final cost and donor information will be available soon, Rodeman said.