SHERIDAN — With the final hockey game of the season and the annual figure skating show wrapped up, the last season of outdoor ice skating in Sheridan is coming to a close. Ushering in a new era, Sheridan on Skates board members hosted an “ice breaking” ceremony Wednesday, officially kicking off the development phase of the planned indoor ice arena.
Charley Whiton, SOS board member and capital campaign chair, took a moment to recall the long history of the project to provide this facility for the community.
“All of this started nearly 30 years ago when Dr. Dennis McGuire, the first orthopedic surgeon we had here in Sheridan, joined with Dr. Nickerson, Tim Barnes Sr. and many others who put together a feasibility study to see if we could raise the funds to have indoor skating here in Sheridan,” Whiton said. “We didn’t have the resources to make that happen, but what we did have was a torch to pass to people later on who had a love for skating. For 30 years, these folks put time, passion and money into our first rinks — down by the library, up at the fairgrounds — and in fact it has been that vision and passion that has created what we have today.”
One benefactor of the “Raise the Roof” capital campaign, Gini Chase, spoke of her husband’s longtime family connection to ice skating and their desire to preserve that history in the new ice arena.
“We’d like to feature Jack’s father in the lobby,” Chase said. “He played hockey at Harvard and then went on to be captain of the Olympic hockey team in 1932. … We have accumulated a lot of his memorabilia over the years and I always wondered what we were going to do with it. Now I know, we can somehow showcase it here.”
The naming sponsors of the lobby area, the Chases are frequent visitors of the ice.
“I’m just so happy I don’t have to sit outside to watch my grandchildren play hockey anymore,” Gini Chase said. “There have been so many games that we have missed because it was just too damn cold.”
Fellow donor Tom Scott also spoke to the frigid temperatures often experienced by skating outside.
“My early days of skating were not very fond memories,” Scott said with a laugh. “Skating on ponds, I can remember falling through one year, but it was a good character developing experience. …This is going to be a great place, but I do worry about making the next generation too soft though.”
Perhaps the person most affected by the often adverse weather at the rink, though, is “Ice Man” Dave Lawson. Lawson tends to the ice daily, and will continue to do so after the new facility is built.
“Anything over an inch and a half of snow we had to get the big blower out, blow away all the snow, come back, redo all the ice, lay water; it just took longer,” Lawson said. “Now we’ll just go out and do the ice. It’ll be pretty simple.”
Lawson said on top of the benefits to the hockey team and the elongated open skate season, he believes school groups will benefit from the arena.
“They have reading programs and if they read a certain amount of books they get a day at the skating rink, and almost all the schools will do that at least once or twice a season now,” Lawson said. “I think the schools will use the skating rink much more when it’s indoors.”
Now that the project is officially underway, Whitney Benefits board president and Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center founding donor Tom Kinnison reminded those in attendance to look to the community’s future needs to build off of what has been started here.
“There are some other projects that are coming on in this community, and I would start naming them but I would leave somebody out; but I’ll say this, look around at the community spirit, look around at some of the things that are coming online within the next two, three, four years, look over and help these people too because they’re going to need it,” Kinnison said. “With what you’ve done here and what they are bringing online, it is a fantastic community but it is going to be a truly fantastic community.”