Ducks break ground, kick start new era of hockey in SoCal
Hockey in Southern California is finally receiving the long-awaited boost it deserves.
For years, the hockey community has grown rapidly in the region. However, the amount of ice sheets has not.
“What’s limiting the participation in all of those (hockey) programs that we have is availability of ice time,” Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli said when addressing the growth of the sport. “All of our leagues are jammed from morning to night. We can’t grow any of these programs any further without additional ice capacity.”
So the Ducks did something about it.
For the first time in over 20 years, a facility will be built in the area with the sole purpose of hockey in mind. In Feb. 2016, the city of Irvine finalized a lease agreement with the Irvine Ice Foundation – a nonprofit organization set up to oversee the rink’s construction and management and backed by Henry and Susan Samueli.
This past February, in true hockey fashion, the Ducks hosted the first ceremonial puck drop for the Great Park Ice Complex at the facility’s groundbreaking ceremony. While holding a giant puck, the Samueli’s were joined on stage by Ducks CEO Michael Schulman and Irvine City Mayor Donald P. Wagner wielding hockey “shovels” to help kick off construction of the 280,000 square-foot complex.
The sports complex will be the official practice facility of the Ducks and is set to be the biggest of its kind in California, and one of the biggest in the country, boasting four sheets of ice.
“From the moment it’s open, this is going to be an icon,” Wagner said while holding back excitement.
The $100 million complex will offer a variety of ice sports, including youth and adult hockey, figure skating, broomball, sled hockey and public skating.
As a part of the NHL Green Initiative, the facility will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified and is designed to take advantage of the warm Southern California climate by using more glass windows and large outdoor space with areas for participants to warm up and areas for guests.
Inside, one rink will have a seating capacity of 2,500 spectators, making it an ideal location for big games, competitions, and tournaments.
“With that many seats, it opens up different opportunities to us,” The Rinks vice president Art Trottier said. “And with the four new ice sheets incoming, we can also go after different major events. With that many sheets, we are already projecting to host 10 major events every single year.”
With the new facility, the Anaheim Ducks Rinks program, which includes both ice and inline facilities, will now have 11 sheets of ice for use. Additionally, with all four existing Rinks located in north Orange County, the Great Park Rinks location fills the need of a more convenient location for those who live in the southern part of the county.
“There are very few rinks in South County, so we needed it here,” Susan Samueli said. “With the great Ducks staff and at H & S, it was only bound to happen because everybody was dreaming and having great vision of what we can do with hockey in Orange County. So we’re thrilled.”
The new facility is expected to open in July 2018.
“Today’s good,” Wagner told the crowd. “Today’s the ice-breaking, today’s the groundbreaking, but really make sure you come back when we cut the ribbon on this absolutely fantastic facility in 2018.”
— Anaheim Ducks and The Rinks Staff