From its inception in the 1990s as an ad hoc seasonal rink to its current status as a modern NHL-sized facility, the Winthrop Rink owes its very existence to a combination of serendipity, perseverance, volunteerism, and ingenuity. The most recent improvement to the rink — new dasher boards — is yet another example of community spirit and good timing.
Rink Manager Steve Bondi says that he and other rink staff and board members have known for a few years that the dasher boards surrounding the rink needed replacing. When the boards were purchased in 2006, they were already used. They lived a good life, but since then, they’ve deteriorated to a point of being unsound and potentially unsafe. Worse, the community sponsor ads wouldn’t even stick to the boards anymore!
The Winthrop Rink decided to pursue funding for the new boards more than a year ago. At first, pandemic realities made funding prospects bleak. Then COVID-19 dropped one of its few little silver linings as stimulus money boosted the economy and Washington state revenues rebounded. With a grant from the Youth Athletic Facilities program of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, and matching funds from both Okanogan County and Town of Winthrop Lodging Tax Advisory Committees, the Winthrop Rink was suddenly in a position to get full funding for its new dasher board system.
Working with a contractor that deals exclusively in athletic facilities, the Canadian Company Athletica Sports Systems Inc, Steve and the rink staff prepared the rink for the new board installation by removing the old boards and giving them away (there are still a few left if you want ‘em), cleaning the slab, and completing some cosmetic repairs.
Athletica Sports dealt a swift dose of Canadian humor by scheduling the delivery of the boards for 7 a.m. on Labor Day morning. Those comic Canucks also supplied an extra chuckle by telling Steve that they were short staffed and could only provide an installation consultant, and offered a discount if Steve could round up a work crew.
Not every community sports rink would agree to such a proposal, but the Winthrop Rink is not your average community rink. The rink was built by community-based labor and the dasher board installation would be just one more such example. Steve, Ryan Bell, Miles Milliken, Aaron Studen, Paul Butler and Jon Timchalk spent a week working with the Athletica installation guy and “Boom!” says Steve. “New boards!”
The benefit of having done the installation of the 73 boards themselves, Steve says, is that they now have the institutional knowledge of exactly how the board barrier is constructed. Future repairs or replacements will be a lot easier since the rink staff knows the infrastructure.
As of last Friday the new boards and safety glass are in place, and Steve and the rink staff are working on rebuilding player boxes and installing the sponsor ads on those shiny new boards.