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Los Alamos Ice Rink to celebrate its 60th birthday

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By Kirsten Laskey

Los Alamos County Ice Rink was formed by damming water and setting out sprinklers. Within 60, years it has turned into a modernized facility that is embraced by the community. To recognize the rink’s age and accomplishments, an anniversary celebration is being planned.The three-day celebration will begin with an After-school Birthday Bash, which will be held from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the ice rink. Students 14-years-old or younger are invited to attend. High school students can skate under the stars during the Late Night ’50s Skate, which will be from 9 p.m.- midnight Jan. 25. During the event, there will be a costume contest and door prizes.The fun continues for adults from 8 p.m.-midnight Jan. 26. Adults  21 and older are invited to come. There will be a grand prize drawing. Additionally, a proclamation, recognizing the 60 years of service the ice rink has provided to the community, will be read. The ice rink’s past is being celebrated in other ways. Nominations are being taken for the Tim Wehner Memorial Wall, which honors individuals who made a difference, continue to make a difference, and contributed or continue to contribute to the advancement of the Los Alamos County Ice Rink, hockey or skating youth programming. Additionally, staff members are looking for memorabilia – old photographs, hockey jerseys, ice skates, etc. – people might be interested in donating for the anniversary celebrations. If interested, call the Recreation Department at 662-8173. The ice rink appears to be an achievement of the community. For about 40 years, it was operated by a group of volunteers called the Los Alamos Skating Club. The club started the ice rink in 1947. In 1949, it was upgraded to a hockey rink under the leadership of Ted Dunn, Ken Evans and Walter McCracken.Dianne Marquez, ice rink manager, explained when the laboratory was established it brought in people from across the country and many of them had an interest in skating and outdoor winter sports.Although the current rink sits about 50-100 yards from the original location, Marquez explained the site was chosen because it is about 10 degrees cooler compared to other places in the community and it’s shaded. Due to rising costs and improvements needed at the ice rink, the club couldn’t continue operating the rink. Therefore, in 1989, the club petitioned the county to take control.Former club president Karolyn Coulter was instrumental in transferring operations to the county, said Dianne Marquez, ice rink manager.“We’ve been the proud stewards of the rink since 1989,” Marquez said. Throughout its history, the ice rink has acheived  many milestones, such as getting running water and restrooms and constructing the warming hut or main building at the rink. Another big accomplishment, Marquez said, was ability to have refrigeration, which keeps the ice cool, starting in 2000.In its early days, the rink had a sand or dirt floor and ice was made from sprinklers or damming water.  The rink was opened in December and closed in January. Now, the rink opens for business in November and typically closes in either February or March. Another accomplishment was getting a Zamboni. Marquez said in 1961 the Outpost Ice Arena had a Zamboni machine, which resurfaces ice, and was going to replace it. They offered the old one to Los Alamos she said, so skating club members traveled down to Albuquerque and literally drove the Zamboni back to Los Alamos. The Zamboni became legendary, she said, because the garage it was stored in caught on fire in 1973 and Dunn ran into the burning structure and drove the machine out. Its novelty doesn’t stop there; Marquez said the Zamboni happened to be the one of the first to ever be manufactured, which earned it a place at the Hockey Hall of Fame.These are just a few stories the county staff has heard throughout the years. “It’s just amazing to hear these stories,” Marquez said. Perhaps the rink’s greatest accomplishment was earning the love of the community. Marquez said the adults who came to the rink as kids now bring their grandchildren. “We enjoy that community feel,” she said.There are several reasons why the rink is such a popular facility. “It gives kids something else to do,” Marquez said. “People know it’s a safe environment for their kids to skate a couple of hours … people look forward to it.” Assistant rink manager Krystal Zellner added, “We’re the only outdoor rink in New Mexico.” As a result, the rink gets visitors from Española, Pojoaque and Albuquerque. “People just love the facility,” Marquez said. “It’s just something different.” The numbers support this claim. Typically, between 15,000-20,000 people visit the rink during a season.Looking toward the future, Marquez said some people would like to have a roof for the rink, however, others do not, so it needs to be determine what the whole community would like to see. Additionally, with traffic increasing around the rink, parking will be addressed. Marquez said the rink is currently working with Los Alamos National Laboratory to erect pedestrian signs.She added, “Our goal is to continue with the training and professionalism of the staff down there.” Zellner said staff members are constantly learning how to improve their ice making methods.Another goal is to purchase a new Zamboni.Whatever the future holds, the ice rink will continue to be a special place. “It’s not just a place where adults go, it’s not just a place where youth go, it’s multi-generational,” Marquez said. “It’s a place where people can re-connect with one another.”Zellner added, “It’s really rich with history … we’re just rich with history.” Just how many communities, Marquez added, can say they have an outdoor ice rink?