A New Place to Skate

growing Chippewa youth hockey program has new rink

Tom Giffey

Bill Scobie Memorial Ice Rink
Bill Scobie Memorial Ice Rink

The cliché about Wisconsin weather – wait a few minutes, and it will change – often rings true, even in winter. Sure, it’s usually cold, but warm spells, snow, sleet, and other types of precipitation keep things interesting, especially if you’re trying to keep a big slab of ice frozen and smooth enough for skating. This is exactly the challenge that the Chippewa Youth Hockey Association used to face with its outdoor rink on the north side of Chippewa Falls.

Now, thanks to nearly $1.2 million in donations raised over the past year, young skaters in Chippewa County have an outdoor rink that should last longer and be easier to maintain than its predecessor. The new Bill Scobie Memorial Ice Rink – located adjacent to the club’s two indoor rinks at 839 First Ave. – opened in early December, and it was soon hosting practices and games for kids from the more than 250 families who take part in hockey and figure skating through the association.

“We had an outdoor rink, but the problem was it had no bottom in it,” explains Steve Gibbs, vice president of the hockey association. “It was just poured on the sand. It took forever for the ground to freeze.” And even after the ground and ice had frozen solid enough to skate on, sun and snowfall made the uncovered ice difficult to maintain. Last year, the outdoor rink was only usable for about a month.

Last January, the association launched the Ice Dreams campaign to pay for an upgraded, covered outdoor rink and new locker rooms. With the help of the Chippewa Falls High School hockey program and other community leaders and donors, the campaign raised all but $25,000 of its $1.2 million goal (which means it’s not to late for you to make a donation to fill the final gap).

“The community support has been overwhelming,” Gibbs says. In addition to the covered rink – which hopefully will keep the ice intact into March – the funds helped the association build new boys and girls locker rooms, a weight room, and a Zamboni room. And these better facilities translate into better opportunities for young skaters, who have to begin playing hockey at a relatively young age to develop the skills necessary to complete at higher levels.

“Hockey statewide is dying, but we’re bulging at the seams,” Gibbs says of the Chippewa Falls-based association. “We’ve never had more teams, more interest, or more kids.” The association has teams – from mites and squirts to peewees and bantams – for girls and boys ages 4 and up.

“What I hope it does is get more kids to skate and love the game of hockey,” Gibbs says. “Whether they join our association or not, just to be able to go out on the ice and enjoy hockey means the world to our association.”

Learn more about the Chippewa Youth Hockey Association at chippewahockey.org.