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Game on: Ice rink opens

Lauren Halsted, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneTrent Dowell, left, and Steve Smaha cruise the ice Saturday after the grand opening of the South Tahoe Ice Arena.
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“Welcome to the slickest place on Earth,” reads the sign hung at South Shore’s newest addition.

Trapeze artists and a juggling clown didn’t appear in town this weekend, but the opening of the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena did resemble a circus act. Blaring oldies music greeted guests. Pictures were snapped. Droves of people rushed to lace their skates. Some flew across the ice with the grace of ballerinas. Others fell, leaving shaved ice on their behinds. Some clutched the wall for dear life, while others sped past like hockey pucks.

“The turnout is great,” Gary Moore, the recreation supervisor of the ice arena, said Saturday. “We had between three and four hundred in the facility when we opened, and I’m guessing we’ll go about 250 strong the rest of the weekend.”

Everyone from Mayor Brooke Laine to young children attended the celebration.

Three-year-old Lindsey Portillo got her first ice-skating lesson from her father, Roy. She “walked” across the ice as her dad held her up between his legs. After the new experience, Lindsey was all smiles, and watched the other skaters with a mesmerized gaze.

Jason, 12, and Tanner Hart, 11, of South Lake Tahoe, were excited to be back on ice. “It’s so smooth it’s weird,” Jason said. They both plan to join their first hockey league at the ice arena.

Kids weren’t the only ones to partake in the festivities. Mike and Amy Walker, a couple from Yuba City, Calif., tried ice skating for the first time on Saturday. Mike skated an entire lap without falling while Amy gripped the wall for balance. “It’s a nice place,” Amy said. “We’ll definitely be back with our kids.”

“The community wanted an ice rink,” Laine said. “They’ve been asking for it for a long time, and we’re honored to do this for them.”

The 37,000-square-foot building, located at1176 Rufus Allen Blvd., offers something for everyone. A NHL regulation-sized rink satisfies any ice-skater’s appetite and rental and retail pro shops can outfit anyone. It also hosts a cafe that serves classic American hot dogs, popcorn, chili, pizza and candy; a video arcade and a party room.

The city of South Lake Tahoe and the Recreation Department have been juggling the idea of an ice arena for the past 20 years, Moore said last week. A small, privately funded rink was built at the site of the new arena five years ago. It was packed every day of its three-month life span. However, the rink was canceled due to lack of funding and inability to keep the open-air facility’s ice frozen. The attempt demonstrated that the community would come out and support the rink.

The $4.4 million facility was paid for by Measure S — an almost 70 percent voter-approved recreation bond, which also funded soccer fields and 25 miles of bicycle trails, Moore said.

“This was done first class. We didn’t scrimp on anything,” Tom Davis, city councilman, said. “When you work together and are inclusive, you can achieve anything you want. This is a prime example.” The ice arena is supported by the entire community, from citizens to the business community to the lodging association.

And the compliments kept rolling in.

“I’ve been plugging for it for 30 years,” Pat Shanahan, whose wife was a star of the Ice Follies, said. “It’s better than I ever expected. As an attraction for the city, it’s spectacular.”

Numerous programs and camps will be featured at the facility including a complete skating school, year-round hockey leagues and camps, open public skating, a late-night skate and dance and birthday party packages.

Laine described the new facility as “state of the art. It’s a great place for youth, and even adults, to enjoy for generations to come. I’m very proud.”

— Lauren Halsted can be reached at 542-8012 or lhalsted@tahoedailytribune.com.


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