Load-out in Buena Vista

Loaded into rental trucks amidst the greenery of the Sonoran Desert, at left, the practice rink used by the 1980 Olympic champion ice hockey team is unloaded 2 days later in Buena Vista’s winter, above.

On the same day Salida broke ground on a natural ice skating rink, a group of about 30 met in Buena Vista to discuss the future of a rink here.

The meeting on Jan. 9 came a little less than 5 years after Daniel Hamme, the former proprietor of Natural Mystic Wellness, bought the boards that lined the practice rink used by the 1980 Olympic hockey team and brought them from Arizona to a more appropriately wintry Rocky Mountain home in BV.

Hamme, along with BV recreation director Earl Richmond and Alan Brown, who is helping the group in Salida build their rink, said that the BV Rink would be aiming for a multi-phase project that would begin with a simple shaded rink and grow to a more complex facility.

“We’re going to start out with a natural ice rink, which means we’ll pretty much have skateable ice on a daily basis for 3-1/2 months a season,” Brown said of the project in Salida.

“We sort of felt like we’ll start out with the natural ice rink and prove that there’s an interest and we can get people out there skating, then we’ll take the next steps towards building an indoor facility.”

Hamme estimated that the shaded, natural ice rink could be complete by 2021, possibly in the River Park just east of the pump track. For the rest of the year, the concrete foundation would be built with the capability to serve a myriad of recreational purposes.

During the winter, a rink could give locals another form of recreation that doesn’t involve schlepping down to Monarch, and could attract hockey tournaments or other winter sporting events.

“I know we’ll have a rink up this winter,” Brown said of the project in Salida. “Whether or not we’ll have any time to skate on it, I’m not sure. There’s a lot of work to do.”

Construction began last Thursday on the rink next to the Hot Spring Aquatic Center in Salida.

Diesel Post, Salida’s parks and recreation director, says the goal is to have the first phase of the rink complete by February.

The Chaffee County Amateur Hockey Association, which spearheaded the Salida rink, has been making efforts to bring ice to the Arkansas Valley for 10 years.

The citizens who came out to the community center, however, began brainstorming about how Buena Vista could get ice even sooner than next year, looking at the town’s beach volleyball court as a potential location for an ice skating rink that could be installed in 2020.

A rink on the sand of the volleyball court would be minimal and temporary. Without the boards or a shading system, it wouldn’t be suitable for hockey, and the posts for the volleyball net don’t come out, but would nevertheless be a way to gauge and develop local interest in a rink, several members of the group said.

“For about 5 months a year the volleyball court isn’t used, so our multi-purpose pitch could be that it could be shared with an ice rink use,” Richmond said.

Brown said that “building a natural ice rink, it’s not hard, but it’s technical. It’s not a matter of just going out and flooding a pool … you’ve got to have an absolutely level surface, you need a liner, a container to keep the water in and you need shade.

“What I designed in Utah that’s now been copied in quite a few other places is I bought agricultural shade cloth, bought40 poles, 20 on each side of the rink and stretched it across and hung those shade curtains every 10 feet.”

Before moving to Salida, Brown lived in Vernal, Utah, a town near the Colorado border which he said has a similar winter climate to Buena Vista.

Brown created his first ice rink in a roping arena on his ranch in Jensen, started a youth hockey association in Vernal and, at the request of Uintah County commissioners, built a hockey rink in the Uintah County Fairgrounds that has grown from a natural shaded rink into an indoor facility.

“It got to the point where we had teams coming in every weekend,” Brown said. “We also had public skate, learn to skate, skate sharpening services. One of the things that turned out to be a real highlight was a senior skate every morning where anybody over 50 could come and we’d have coffee and doughnuts and you could skate for an hour or more before you went to work.

“It was extremely popular. It grew like gangbusters. (Ice hockey) is probably now the most popular sport in Vernal, Utah. They had four high school teams this year.”

All donations to the Buena Vista Rink will go to a fund managed by the town of Buena Vista.

The Mountain Mail contributed to this report.

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