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Idaho Voices

Bigger, better KYRO Ice Arena coming

Nonprofit group plans to build regulation-size ice sheet after roof collapse

As an advocate of North Idaho’s only ice arena and a longtime hockey enthusiast, Vince Hughes knows that when you get knocked down on the ice, picking yourself back up is an important part of the game.

Now he’s learned that the same holds true in business.

Nearly three months after the collapse of the Kootenai Youth Recreation Organization’s old ice arena’s roof in late December, leaving behind an almost completely unsalvageable heap of twisted metal and other debris, Hughes, president of the KYRO board of directors, unveiled preliminary plans Wednesday evening for a new, larger ice arena roughly 100 yards from the demolished original.

In front of a crowd of more than 100 skating enthusiasts at the Army National Guard complex on Seltice Way, including hockey players and their families and a newly formed North Idaho curling team, members of the nonprofit organization laid out the future vision for the arena, which will be bigger than the old rink and the first regulation-size ice sheet in North Idaho at 200-by-85-feet.

“We’re still in the planning stages,” Hughes said. “We just want to get some information out to the users of the rink on the direction we’re headed.”

In 2004, KYRO purchased the ice rink and surrounding land and started phase one of the organization’s long-term plans, which included renovation and improvements to the former ice center, while the second stage called for the eventual construction of a new facility. But after winter’s record snowfall caused the roof to crumple, he told the audience, “Like it or not, we’re on to phase two.”

Improvements to the 45,000-square-foot facility, which was designed by an Alabama-based architect who’s worked on 20 other arenas, include a sturdier, concrete block structure with steel joints and roofing, a rink surrounded by seamless glass for spectator viewing, a heated lobby, larger locker rooms, two party rooms for private occasions, seating capacity of 600 and the ability to operate year-round. Since the old structure was more than 95 percent damaged, Hughes said, they’ve decided to start from scratch with the ice sheet and parking lot, built over the former facility, constructed on the same level. The total cost for the project is estimated at more than $2.6 million.

“That would be if we could completely finish the arena the way we want it,” Hughes said, adding that cost factors could limit construction to several phases. And because the insurance company settled on a $2 million payment, $1.4 million of which has been paid out to KYRO, he continued, “As you can see, we don’t have enough money to do everything we want here.”

Another major upgrade will be to the roof, a single-slope covering designed so that another ice sheet could be built next door with its roof slanting the opposite direction if the demand is ever there, Hughes explained. “We told the structural engineer we want at least a 60-pound snow load so we never have to shovel the roof,” he said.

As for the former ice arena, it was the playing and practice field for several hundred players, ranging from 3-year-olds to high school athletes to amateur adults, and dozens of hockey teams with the Coeur d’Alene Hockey Association, the Cristeros Hockey Club and the Coeur d’Alene Lakers Junior A team.

It was also an entertainment hub for families, ice skaters and recreational ice arena users, such as the numerous area schools that visited on field trips to skate and play broom-ball. “It was basically a total loss on the old structure,” Hughes said, adding that they’ve only been able to salvage some benches, a heater and the ice-making equipment.

“We figure about 1,000 people a week go through the arena, and about 350 of those were kids,” Skip Fuller, a volunteer for KYRO who’s taking on some of the group’s community outreach programs, said about the former facility. Since the roof collapse, he added, “It’s been a rough time for the area hockey teams and skaters.”

With the former site already cleared by work crews, construction could begin in early spring with a target opening date in summer. If all goes as planned, Hughes said, the ice arena could be ready for the 2009-’10 youth and adult hockey league seasons.

That, though, is only a tentative timeline, he added.

“It’s tough to know exactly what out timeline is going to be,” Hughes said.

When asked by an audience member what they can do to help, the KYRO members said the new arena will have to be built with the same volunteer support as the former facility.

“We’ll definitely be looking for volunteers. It will be a community effort as much as we can,” Hughes said, adding that they’ll need community support in everything from construction, such as rink floor installation and landscaping, to fundraising. “It’s one of those jobs where many hands make light work.”

Reach correspondent Jacob Livingston by e-mail at

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