The success of the city’s Larson Ice Center has always been dependent on the hard work and support of many different entities in Brookings.
Both public and private efforts helped hockey get its start here in the late 1950s, and that same cooperation was in place when the community came together to build the new ice center, which opened about six years ago.
Now the Brookings Ice Skating Association (BISA) is asking for the public’s help again – members are starting a major fundraising campaign to make improvements to the Red Rink at Larson Ice Center.
Gerry Rounds, BISA’s fundraising chairman, said that while exact figures are dependent on final engineering plans, the group’s goal it to collect approximately $500,000. The money will be used to add bleachers to the north side of the competition rink and construct new locker rooms underneath the seating.
Kickoff next Saturday
A kickoff for the fundraising campaign is set for next Saturday, April 5, at the Larson Ice Center, and pancakes and pucks will take center stage.
A pancake feed and basket auction will run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost for the feed is $5 per person or $15 for a family of four or more; kids 5 and under eat for free.
The gift baskets will be available for purchase through silent auction, and smaller items will be sold to whoever puts the last dollar in the collection basket.
Rounds said fundraising has always been an important part of what BISA does, and the group focuses on fund drives for one of two reasons.
“It’s either to make hockey more accessible to more kids, or to improve the facilities that we have already.
“And if the kids aren’t happy, if the kids aren’t given the opportunity to excel, it makes no sense for us to do this.”
The anticipated improvements at the ice center were actually part of the original pans to build the new facility. But because bids came back higher than expected in 2000, features at the center were cut. Some extras, like the west mezzanine in the Red Rink, have been completed since then with BISA funds.
Want rink completed by 2010
Organizers hope this latest push to add more seating and varsity locker rooms to the center are done by 2010, when Brookings plays host to the state boys varsity hockey tournament.
The ice center already has room to add the new amenities; no structural changes are needed.
“We would like to start today. If we had the money and had the engineering done, as soon as they would let us put block in the floor, we would be doing it. The goal is certainly to get this done by 2010.”
City support critical
Rounds said BISA is not responsible for all of the ice center maintenance and upgrades. Without support from the city, especially the Park and Rec Department and Board, “this thing falls flat on its face.”
And, he added, Brookings hockey players and figure skaters would be lost without the generosity of local businessman Dale Larson.
Without the cooperation and approval of the city, the latest improvements won’t happen.
The Blue Rink at the Larson Center will also be in need of new boards in a few years, and that likely will be an expense the city handles, Rounds explained.
But even before the upgrades materialize, the city already has one of the best ice centers and programs in the state, he added.
Sport attracts 250 skaters
“People know the amenities are good here, so they’ll come and watch other games because they’ll know they’ll have a place to sit, a place to park, and they can get in and out of the building easily.”
Brookings now boasts between 245 and 250 hockey players, compared to 80 to 90 kids in the mid-1980s.
And the majority of those athletes’ parents take an active role in supporting the city’s hockey and figure skating programs.
Besides fundraising, parents were also putting in sweat equity while trying to get the new ice center ready for a state varsity hockey tournament in March 2002. That will likely happen again as the latest round of construction gets under way.
Fundraising begins in earnest
And a large group of volunteers has been working with Rounds weekly to organize their fundraising efforts.
Another BISA social event and fundraiser is even planned for next month at the Old Sanctuary.
Rounds said besides raising some bucks, next weekend’s pancake feed is a chance for BISA to show off the facility with tours, especially to people who haven’t seen it before.
“We really want to get people out there to help them understand what we’re trying to do.”
Contact Jill Fier at email@example.com.