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Spreading the Word About Schulz Rink of Dreams

Schulz Rink of Dreams
Schulz Rink of Dreams (via “Schulz Rink of Dreams” Facebook Page)

Last night we learned of a unique hockey rink in a giant farm shed on a farm in Madison Lake, a small town in Southeastern Minnesota.  It’s called Schulz Rink of Dreams in honor of the late Paul Schulz.

Schulz was a hockey fan of epic proportions.  His love of hockey was so great that when he needed to build a shed to store his farm equipment, he built one with floor space in excess of 200 by 85 feet, and overhead clearance of 15 to 20 feet; So that some day, in the winter, he could convert the shed into an indoor hockey rink.

At some point, Paul acquired a complete set of used arena boards and plexiglass from an arena that was replacing them.  Thirteen years ago– before he assembled the Rink of Dreams for the first time, Paul also bought a used, 1962 Zamboni ice resurfacer.

With great effort, he assembled all of this equipment into a complete ice hockey rink with natural ice.  He offered this ice surface to all comers in his community for free.

After the first season of operation, Paul died of a heart attack, while planting his fields for the growing season.

In the 12 seasons since he passed away, Paul’s widow Stacy Schulz-Pope, Paul’s family, and friends have reassembled and successfully operated the rink.

After seeing this story online, we decided to add Schulz Rink of Dreams as the 4,650th arena in RinkAtlas:

On Sunday, February 11, 2018, Boyd Huppert reported for KARE 11 Television from Madison Lake, Minnesota about this unique hockey rink.  The 5-minute video that presents this story is a must-watch. It’s the kind of news piece that gives you hope for the future of traditional television broadcasting.  It tells a story of a place that most people have never heard of, but would want to know exists even if they don’t eat, drink, and sleep the sport of hockey like we do.

Upon further reflection, we realized that a local news report, no matter how heartwarming, probably wouldn’t go viral without a little help in a lot of different places.  If there’s any purpose to having a blog on RinkAtlas, it should be to tell stories of people who can legitimately be called the builders of hockey’s future.  The Schulz Family are some of those people.

RinkAtlas Helps You Find Any Arena in North America, Not Just the Ones that are Easy to Find

Here’s the latest arena to be added to RinkAtlas. It’s a place called Shinapest Tooma Memorial Arena in Kawawachikamach, Québec.

This is an arena that you cannot reach by car from the populated parts of North America. You either have to take a train from Sept Îlles or you have to fly in to the nearby town of Schefferville.

A number of people have asked, “Why are you focusing on indoor hockey arenas in the Canadian sub-arctic?”

It’s not that I’m focusing on them. It’s that the goal of RinkAtlas is to include every arena in North America where hockey is played. And when I say that, I mean all of them. Not just the arenas that everybody knows about.

Besides that, two men I know through hockey and through my research, Joé Juneau and Nicolas Chalifoux, have worked in or on this arena and they take pride in it. I try to celebrate that as well.

Vernon Civic Arena Holding Final Vernon Vipers Game on January 6

Global News reports that Vernon Civic Arena in Vernon, British Columbia will hold an 80th anniversary celebration on Saturday, January 6, with a final scheduled BCHL (junior hockey) game between the Vernon Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings.  The Vernon Civic Arena is considered the first indoor ice arena in the Okanagan.

The game is sold out, but tickets may be available at the gate “if some season ticket holders {who received tickets as part of their ticket distribution} don’t show up.”

Kal Tire Place, a nearby 3,003 seat arena, which is the current home of the Vernon Vipers is adding a second ice surface.  When this new surface is completed later in 2018, it will allow the City of Vernon to close Vernon Civic Arena and continue to offer the same amount of ice time to community hockey and skating programs.

Vernon Civic Arena Time Line

  • Later in 2018: Second ice surface at Kal Tire Place to be completed.  Vernon Civic Arena officially closed.
  • January 6, 2018: Scheduled game between Vernon Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings.  This is expected to be the last BCHL game at Vernon Civic Arena.  The game is sold out, but Global News says standby tickets may be available.
  • April 24, 2017: Ground broken on second ice surface at Kal Tire Place.
  • November 28, 2015: Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) residents vote to replace Vernon Civic Arena with a second ice surface at nearby Kal Tire Place.  This referendum authorized borrowing of C$ 13.25 million ($10.6 million) to pay for the expansion of Kal Tire Place.
  • June 18, 2014: The Corporation of the City of Vernon and MQN Architects publish a Civic Arena Replacement Feasibility Study.  The study recommended adding a second ice surface to Kal Tire Place situated north of the main building, to be built in part of the current parking area.
  • April 3, 2014: Structural deficiencies were identified in the Vernon Civic Arena.  Vernon Recreation Services said that replacing the current ice surface in the event of a catastrophic failure would cost C$ 5.6 million ($4.5 million).  The other options that were explored were twinning (building a second indoor ice surface) at Priest Valley Arena or Kal Tire Place.
  • January 6, 1938: Vernon Civic Arena opened.  This was the first indoor ice arena in the Okanagan area of British Columbia.

The Oldest Operating Arena in the World Could Be Calumet Colosseum on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Thanks to friends like Adam Wodon of College Hockey News, we are gathering historical information about arenas in North America.

One of the documents that Adam found and shared with us is Ice Rinks in the Copper Country which is a history of ice rinks in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  This document talks about a few arenas that existed prior to 1900, but the oldest arena that still exists in that area is thought to be the oldest operating indoor ice arena in the world.

The Calumet Colosseum in Calumet, Michigan was built 1913 and is still in use today.  It was featured in the article 100 Years Young: Calumet Colosseum in USA Hockey Magazine four years ago.

In spite of the fact that the Colosseum has been used for hockey since 1913, it only installed an artificial ice plant in 1968.  Their ability to play hockey indoors prior to 1968 appears to be due to the cold conditions in Calumet during the winter.

The USA Hockey Magazine article talks about the ice plant being built with volunteer labor during a strike at the Calumet and Hecla (C&H) Mining Company resulted in the striking workers volunteering to build the ice plant.

As a result of the articles that Adam has sent us recently, we have a good amount of historical information about arenas that can be incorporated into RinkAtlas.  We’re also beginning a trial project to document the closed arenas in New Jersey with an eye toward writing a history of arenas in the Atlantic District of USA Hockey in the future.

Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney, TX Reportedly Planning Big Expansion

Dr. Pepper StarCenter McKinney Concept
Dr. Pepper StarCenter McKinney Concept Drawing, from the presentation to the McKinney TX City Council

Yesterday, Cassidy Ritter in Dallas-Fort Worth Community Impact reported that Dr. Pepper StarCenter McKinney will add an additional 1,800 seat NHL-sized sheet, with more parking and locker rooms.

What makes this article especially interesting is the details of what was said in the presentation to the McKinney City Council, the repurposing of space devoted to ball fields for indoor ice, and the grants coming from McKinney Community Development Corporation and the City of McKinney.

This shows that hockey and skating are growing in the State of Texas, and how committed growing communities in Texas are to continuing the expansion of recreation facilities. [ Thanks to Scott Wheeler for sharing the link where we could see it. ]

Is Louisville Laying the Foundation for an NHL Future?

The Louisville Kentucky city council and the chairman of their arena authority are discussing adapting the KFC Yum! Center for NHL hockey.

The KFC Yum Center is an arena now primarily used for Louisville Cardinals basketball games. It was originally built without an ice plant because the basketball floor might get slippery, and– why would a lot of people want to go see hockey “that far in the South”?

But then, the runaway success of the Nashville Predators two hours to their south happened.

This is a long shot, but Nashville – Louisville could become a Western Conference rivalry, because the distance between the two cities is easily drivable. [photo of KFC Yum! Center from the KFC Yum! Center website]

Total Fan Experience at Pro Hockey Arenas Impacts Attendance

As those of us who grew up in the New York Metropolitan area are painfully aware, the Ottawa Senators eliminated the New York Rangers to advance to the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.  You’d think that, with their on-ice success, the Senators franchise would be turning fans away from their games, right?

That’s not exactly the case according to Melanie Pitman writing for TheHockeyWriters:

Their average game this past year tallied 16,744 attendees, compared to the 20,500 total people that can fit in the Canadian Tire Centre. And when the Sens played their first Round Two game in four years, only 16,744 seats were full – which was the first time in nearly 10 years that the team didn’t manage to sell out for a playoff game.

Baffling Attendance at Senators Games, Still There’s Hope

The number one issue that Ms. Pitman cites is the location of the Canadian Tire Centre.  This arena in a suburb of Ottawa called Kanata.  It’s not particularly easy to get to in a car from the center of Ottawa, where many people in Canadian government and related businesses work.  Although it’s surrounded by acres of parking lots, exit from those lots after the game is reportedly difficult despite efforts to improve it.

And, just like the other professional hockey arenas that we’ve identified that are similarly situated– places like Wells Fargo Center, PNC Arena, BB&T Center, and Scotiabank Saddledome in the NHL, and the Giant Center in Hershey, PA in the AHL, arenas that are surrounded by acres of parking lots don’t generally have the amenities outside the rink in the form of walkable bars and restaurants that make going to the game fun for people who are not yet the hugest hockey fans.

At RinkAtlas, we believe that the experience of going to a professional hockey game includes how much fun it is to travel to the game, what you do when you get to the arena before you enter the building, and how easy it is to get back home or to wherever you are staying.

We believe that there have to be ways to compare the total game experience at different arenas and say that, typically, you’ll have a better time at a Predators game at Bridgestone Arena than you will at a Senators game at Canadian Tire Centre, simply because of how much fun Lower Broadway in Nashville is compared to Palladium Drive in Kanata.

We’re working on ways to measure this sort of fan experience and we hope to soon have some metrics that help identify the truly fun places to experience a game.

RinkAtlas Directory Complete for Nova Scotia

We completed the arena directory for Nova Scotia today.  There are 77 arenas in Nova Scotia and 3 closed arenas that some websites still show as if they are open.

Our goal with RinkAtlas is to provide the most accurate directory of currently operating North American hockey arenas possible, so where it was necessary, we confirmed the status of arenas which might have closed.

We’re now moving on to work on the directory for the New Brunswick.

First Arena in Elmira, NY is “Alive, but at a cost”

On the RinkAtlas Facebook Page, we have recently talked about arenas which are in danger of ceasing operations or that have unexpectedly shut down.  We do this because we believe it’s important for the hockey community to hear news of this nature as soon as possible.

In the course of reading about the Reading Royals which is coached by a friend of mine from RPI, Kirk MacDonald, I learned that the ECHL is losing the Elmira Jackals because the franchise owner is ceasing operations.

This is sad news by itself.  But linked to that story is a story from the March 24, 2017 edition of The Elmira Star Gazette, which says that First Arena has changed hands, and is now in private ownership but that the sale is contingent on the new owner finding a team to replace the Jackals.

RinkAtlas is considering creating an Endangered Arenas List for arenas that we consider in danger of closing.  Although First Arena has a buyer, the buyer needs to make a deal with the ECHL, the Federal Hockey League, or some similar league to get a franchise in place for the 2017-2018 season.

I’ll try to provide updates when we learn more about the situation at First Arena in Elmira.

Cleland Ice Rink Remaining Open Year-Round After Public Outcry Results in New Financial Plan

Congratulations to the US Army Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Fort Bragg, NC. The Cleland Ice Rink, which was scheduled for closure on May 24, will remain open through the summer as a result of a new financial plan that allows the facility to operate without a budgetary subsidy.

Cleland Ice Rink is one of the only ice rinks on a military installation in the Continental United States. The nearest indoor rink is 70 miles away, and its seasonal closure in the past resulted in disruption of youth hockey programs of the Cape Fear Youth FireAntz Hockey Association. [ Hat tip to Defending the Blueline for covering the story. ]