John F. Russell: In a place frozen in time

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— This is not your typical ice skating rink.

There are basketball hoops at both ends of the ice, the surface normally shows the scrapes and scratches that comes from use, and after the sun sets, the lights on this rink sometimes are supplemented by the headlights of cars parked alongside the rink.

This is old school. A place where the elements often dictate the conditions of the ice on any given day and games end when it’s time for lunch, dinner or bed.

Here in the middle of the Steamboat II neighborhood, you will find children playing a game without a score, and on weekends, the sounds of laughter and joyful shrieks can be heard echoing through the streets. If you are lucky enough to drive by at the right time, you will witness the type of thing that seems to have been lost in a world filled with high-tech toys, cellphones and laptop computers.

“It’s been very successful,” said Doug Baker, Steamboat II metro district manager. “The community has embraced it, and we get a lot of people from outside the district that come to use it.”

This is a place frozen in time. It brings back memories of street hockey games in the driveway of my best friend’s house and pickup baseball games where the baseball gloves, sprinkler heads and a tree often doubled as bases.

Baker, a longtime Steamboat Springs local, discovered a few years ago that when it gets cold outside, all he and the staff of the Parks, Open Spaces and Recreational Services Department in his district needed to do was add water, a few lights and the highly enthusiastic neighborhood children to cook up an appetizing attraction.

It’s a place where families can escape the trappings of our digital world and games are measured by the friendships made on the ice — not goals.

Baker and the board of directors in Steamboat II built the 5,000-square-foot ice-skating rink in 2005 hoping to give the children in the area a place to hang out. In the past seven years, the spot has become a focal point in the neighborhood west of Steamboat Springs, a place where families come to play.

Baker is thrilled with the rink’s success and what it brings to Steamboat II every year when the rink opens around Thanksgiving or when the temperatures get cold enough to freeze the ice. The rink remains open throughout the winter until the sun sounds the final buzzer sometime in the spring.

This is not the Howelsen Ice Arena, but the rink serves a different purpose and has found a place in the community. Baker said the rink is set up on the concrete pad, which serves as a basketball court in the summer — that explains the hoops at both ends. But the area really comes to life when the temperatures fall and the water freezes.

The hoops remind us all that this isn’t your typical rink, but that hasn’t stopped it from offering children and adults the chance to take a few spins around the ice.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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