Hockey, open ice, youth programs all popular offerings
By Ashley Lodato
The Winthrop Rink’s strategy for coping with COVID has generated a surge in local interest this winter.
“We’ve had an awesome season given the realities around us,” said rink General Manager Steve Bondi. “It’s been fascinating and rewarding, but what we’ve seen is that the rink has come back to its local roots.”
The rink will remain open at least through March 7, and “we’ll eke it out another week if we can,” said Bondi.
The ice is refrigerated, but once the sun angle on the far side of the rink gets intense in March, it reflects heat off the dasherboards and melts the ice. Until then, the rink will operate on a normal schedule.
Since its opening last November, the rink has operated under strict coronavirus protocols that include limits on how many people can be on the ice at any time, and closed locker rooms.
More open ice
In recent years, said Bondi, “we’ve been hosting big tournaments that bring in a lot of revenue to local hotels and restaurants, as well as to the rink, but they monopolize the ice time. Without those tournaments, we’ve been able to host a lot more open skate, our local youth hockey program, and our adult hockey program.”
Total user days are slightly down, said Bondi, due to the suspension of large tournaments, but individual user days are up, and those users get more ice time than they would during a typical tournament weekend, when non-tournament use is limited.
“The trade-off for that loss of tournament revenue has been the satisfaction of seeing our visitor numbers soar,” said Bondi.
Bondi also notes that offering senior class and other school field trips to the rink has been rewarding.
“For a lot of these kids, they’re not together with their whole class in school because of the hybrid model,” he said. “A rink field trip is a way for them all to be together in a COVID-safe way.”
“The silver lining of the season,” said Bondi, “has been elevating local use at a time that usually trends visitor use. We’ve hosted a youth hockey season all year — we’re the only rink in the state that can said that. We’ve also had a ton of figure skaters, and with more ice time available to them we have seen some amazing artistry on display. And adult hockey has really been rocking this year; the local teams have even been renting out the rink on Friday nights to host their own internal competitions.”
Now that our region has moved into Phase 2, said Bondi, the rink is allowed to host inter-region hockey games, with up to 200 spectators. “Feb. 26-28 we’ll have teams from Moses Lake and Wenatchee coming for 12 youth hockey scrimmages,” said Bondi, reminding players and spectators that they need to arrive dressed and ready, since locker rooms and the upstairs viewing area will remain closed.
Bondi acknowledges that the rink’s outdoor design is solely responsible for its success this year.
“Rinks all over the state have been closed,” he said. “That would have been a real bummer for us. But people are looking for outdoor recreation, and we have been able to offer that in a safe way. We’ve been so lucky. Personally, it has been such a fun treat to be a part of it.”
Visit http://winthroprink.org for rink schedule and rates.