Wildcats excited for expansion to Carlsbad
After many months of planning, construction and anticipation, Wildcats Hockey Club is looking forward to finally being able to put teams on the ice as at a second facility: Carlsbad Icetown in north San Diego County.
The Wildcats, formerly of Anaheim, relocated to Riverside this season, and also will have teams playing starting next season at a new ice arena in Carlsbad.
For their soft opening, they’ll host a handful of tournaments this season and some training sessions while the rink gets up and running with its own programs.
“We’ll have a lot of our staff in both locations during the spring time, because we want to make sure that we do a really good job right away in Carlsbad,” Wildcats president Ben Frank said. “We want to make sure that the culture and the expectations that we have set in Riverside are met or exceeded in Carlsbad. We want to make sure that we grow with a purpose and that everything we do, we do a quality job at it.”
The Wildcats expect to be up and running at the new facility this month. While Carlsbad Icetown will run the adult and in-house programs, the Wildcats will offer training programs that include off-ice gym workouts and skill-specific sessions.
They plan to hold multiple tournaments at the Carlsbad facility this season – including over the Christmas, Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day holiday weekends, as well as other tourneys throughout the winter and spring.
In May and June, the Wildcats will hold tryouts for Mites to Midgets, and depending on the turnout, they hope to be able to ice at least two teams at each age level starting next season.
The Wildcats’ spring program will include skills sessions and off-ice training during the week, as well as three-on-three hockey on the weekends for all age groups.
“We’re hitting the ground running in Carlsbad, and having the Wildcats’ name and terrific reputation is really a big help,” said Matt Dunaev, who owns and operates Carlsbad Icetown and Riverside Icetown with his parents, Alex and Irina. “This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while.”
The Wildcats and Carlsbad Icetown held an open house recently to gauge support from the local community, and had between 400-500 people show up.
That makes Frank and Fred Nelson, the hockey director and general manager of Carlsbad Icetown, confident that they’ll be able to reach their goal of providing opportunities to play hockey in an area that had been under-served.
“There has been a lot of interest from families in that area, even before the rink has opened,” Frank said. “That is really encouraging.”
Added Nelson: “My focus will be the in-house and start-up hockey, and we’ll get a lot of new kids exposed to the game. As things evolve, I think the Wildcats will reap the benefits.”
The facility will feature an 85- x 200-foot sheet of ice with four spacious locker rooms complete with showers. The gym and workout areas overlook the ice, as does a full-service restaurant/concessions area. There will also be a pro shop and skate counter – essentially all the elements that players, their parents and coaches expect in a top-notch youth hockey rink.
“It’s a great facility,” Frank said.
One of the other benefits, Frank said, is Carlsbad Icetown’s location. In addition to being in a highly populated area without many other rinks in close proximity, it’s also in a prime spot to make it attractive for teams to attend tournaments there. The facility is just a few miles from Interstate 5 and the beach, and is close to Legoland, the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.
Frank said he’s eager to get started in Carlsbad. While he has enjoyed witnessing the excitement build along with the facility, he’ll be more content when there are teams skating at the rink wearing Wildcats sweaters.
“Being a part of the whole process and seeing the rink come together has been great and quite a learning experience,” Frank said.
– By Greg Ball