Across The Blue Line - A Community Working Together To Raise The Ice Barn
Thursday Dec. 1st, 2016
For the past 2.5 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege to work for the Gallatin Ice Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to raising funds to expand refrigerated ice facilities in the Gallatin Valley. While we are a rather small organization (one full-time staff member and a five-member volunteer Board of Directors), our team consists of hundreds of local businesses, families and individuals who are donating their time, talents and resources to ‘raise’ the Ice Barn.
Why do we need to expand refrigerated ice capacity? Because currently there are more than 2,500 youth and adults in the Gallatin Valley that call Haynes Pavilion their home for recreational and competitive ice activities. Haynes Pavilion hosts participants and visitors continuously from 6 a.m. to midnight every day of the week during the limited seven-month season. With no room for expanded ice times, the shortage of ice makes it difficult to add more participants and programs, host regional tournaments and competitions and provide off-season training for competitive hockey players and figure skaters.
But to fully understand this need, you need to understand where the demand came from. The story of the Gallatin Ice Foundation began in 2006 after the closure of the Valley Ice Garden, a privately owned facility that was located west of Bozeman. Left without a place to practice and compete, hundreds of skaters migrated to Haynes Pavilion at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds – the only other indoor rink within 90 miles of Bozeman. To address the immediate challenges triggered by the sudden influx of users, the local skating community came together to upgrade Haynes Pavilion, raising more than $750,000 to extend the season by two months and accommodate increased use. Realizing it was a short term solution, the group then created the Gallatin Ice Foundation as a separate nonprofit charged with planning and fundraising for a second indoor ice facility.
After navigating through the recession, the Gallatin Ice Foundation launched a capital campaign to meet the ever increasing needs of our local skating community. Affectionately known as the ‘Raise the Ice Barn’ campaign, the project called for a year-round refrigerated ice facility adjacent to Haynes Pavilion. Bolstered by careful planning, strong public support and an infusion of resources, we were able to begin construction on Phase I of the project in August 2014, which included assembly of the Ice Barn’s 36,500 square foot steel frame. After taking a planned construction pause to focus on fundraising, construction resumed in August 2015 with a significant expansion to the mechanical room in Haynes Pavilion.
Currently our team is working on the final steps of Phase II, which includes connecting Haynes Pavilion and the Ice Barn, installing the refrigerated rink and slab floor, enclosing the building, as well as building two permanent bathrooms and temporary locker rooms. We expect to complete this portion of the project later this year and open Ressler Motors Ice Rink at the Ice Barn to the public for a three-month season on Jan. 2, 2017. Having two rinks side-by-side will be an important asset for our community and allow our local hockey, figure skating and curling clubs to significantly expand their programs and events.
But while the rink will help us meet the immediate needs of our growing ice community, it will only have the capacity to operate for the coldest seven months of the year (October-April). More work will still be needed to complete the project in its entirety. Future improvements, which will be funded by ice revenue and continued fundraising, will include insulating the building, permanent locker rooms and seating, a central entry and lobby, and expanded concessions and administration offices. It’s a good chunk of work, but we’ve already blown past the blue line, so the only place to shoot next is towards the goal!
In a few short months, I’m going to be a mom. And while I’ve always been humbled by the support we receive for this project, I now have an even deeper appreciation for why our team of donors and supporters are working so hard. It’s because together we are building a place for our community to learn, play and grow. It’s a place for our kids to meet new friends and build confidence while perfecting a new skill; a place for neighbors to connect with neighbors; and friends young and old to share quality time together both on the ice and off. See, the Ice Barn, similar to its ‘little’ big sister Haynes Pavilion next door, will be more than just an ice rink; it will be a neighborhood space that will bring joy and fulfillment to our community for generations to come. I for one can’t wait to share this special place with my daughter!
To commemorate the opening of Ressler Motors Ice Rink at the Ice Barn, the Gallatin Ice Foundation will be hosting a grand opening celebration Jan. 12-14. Events will include a ribbon cutting, learn to curl, sled hockey clinic, and even a free public skate. There’s really going to be something for everyone. And on behalf of the Gallatin Ice Foundation team, I welcome you to come check out Bozeman’s new community ice rink and spend some quality time with friends and family. We look forward to seeing you there!
Chelsea Williams is the Executive Director of the Gallatin Ice Foundation. To learn more about the ‘Raise the Ice Barn’ campaign, visit www.gallatinicefoundation.org or contact her at 406-579-5763 or firstname.lastname@example.org.