Golf tournament to benefit IceBox Chiller project
The Fraser Valley Hockey Association (FVHA) will host its second annual golf tournament at Pole Creek Golf Course to benefit the IceBox Chiller Project on Sunday, September 25.
Proceeds go towards installing a permanent chiller system at the IceBox hockey rink. Having a chilled, closed-in facility will allow the FVHA teams to practice and play games on a much more dependable schedule. The rink currently has two open walls and the ice conditions are dependent on weather in the Fraser Valley. This makes it difficult to operate a hockey program that can compete with teams from Denver and other areas with year-round facilities.
Dedicated hockey mom, Sarah Cichon-Douglas is helping organize the golf tournament and fundraising efforts. According to Cichon-Douglas, the approximate cost of this project is $500,000. As of now the association has raised almost $175,000. Their goal is to reach a halfway point of $250,000. The refrigeration project is comprised of three components – purchasing the refrigeration system, bringing three-phase power to the facility, and constructing a steel building to enclose the system. The chillers are already installed under the ice, Cichon-Douglas said. The main costs are hooking up power, buying the actual compressor and housing the compressor. A decision by Mountain Parks Electric Inc. (MPEI) will reduce the FVRD’s estimated budget for the potential refrigeration. MPEI has reviewed and reduced their “capacity charge.” The initial capacity charge estimate was $43,000 and the new estimate is $12,000, which allows the rec district to reduce their project budget by about $31,000.
Cichon-Douglas pointed out the struggle the hockey program faces when they are playing against teams that can practice several times a week early in the season. For the FVHA teams, practice early in the season means traveling at least an hour to get some ice time.
Every year in early September, the kids who play on the developmental hockey teams start heading out of Grand County for early season practice. The teams have traveled to Breckenridge in the past, and will begin heading to Littleton for Friday practices starting September 9 for the 16/17 season.
“FVHA has a carpool available for kids, but it becomes exhausting,” said Cichon-Douglas.
“Essentially, we are driving almost four hours for an hour and a half of practice.”
FVHA often has to cancel games because of insufficient ice conditions, and find it difficult to reschedule elsewhere because most ice rinks have jam-packed schedules.
“Being situated in the ‘IceBox of the Nation’ one would believe we do not need chillers, however, this is far from the case,” Cichon-Douglas said.
“We have had many instances when games have been cancelled, as well as practices, when we have a mild period in the midst of winter.”
Cichon-Douglas pointed out how far the program has come so far:
“Mountain kids, as we all know, are resilient and athletic. Even during hockey season, our kids are out skiing in Big Mountain competitions, cross county skiing or riding snowmobiles. Simultaneously, our coaching is developing as well. Being undefeated is proof of great athletes, however, you need knowledgeable and motivating coaches. We are retaining coaches who do not have kids in the program. That is huge. We have a great hockey community in the Fraser Valley.”
Maintaining a climate-dependent ice rink is an extremely difficult job, and Cichon-Douglas, praised the IceBox staff responsible for preparing the ice.
“The guys who maintain the rink at the IceBox are incredible. They do a phenomenal job maintaining our ice. They are the quiet heroes in this situation. It just becomes a nightmare when the temperatures increase,” she said.
Despite the difficulties the FVHA faces without consistent ice, the Peewee team went undefeated last season and won their division in the Denver North Hockey League (DNHL).
FVRD Parks and Athletics Manager Austin DeGarmo discussed the process of maintaining the IceBox and the challenges the crew faces:
“A natural sheet of ice has many challenges. The initial ice making is a grueling and tedious process without refrigeration. We patiently wait for a good cold streak in the forecast, like five days of 5 – 15 degree weather. When we see that window in the forecast, we go for it. This process requires misting 25 layers of very thin ice, applying white paint to the ice surface, inserting vinyl hockey lines, and sandwiching all that in with an additional 25 – 30 thin layers of water. We crank early mornings and late nights until it’s done. During the process we are keeping our fingers crossed that the weatherman made an accurate forecast. I’m amazed that staff returns each year to take on such a task.”
“The refrigeration project was identified as a high priority on the needs assessment survey,” said DeGarmo.
The Fraser Valley Recreation District, Fraser Valley Hockey Association, and the Fraser Valley Rec Foundation continue to work on grant and fundraising opportunities.
The FVHA ‘Freeze the Rink’ Golf Tournament was a success last season, DeGarmo said.