Portland’s hockey community continues to be under-served in terms of public sheets of ice, and the metro area almost lost one of the three sheets this past summer when Mountain View Ice Arena’s closure was halted at the eleventh hour. Between that and the anticipated opening of a two sheet facility in Beaverton, the community’s future is up in the air. This post will discuss the current situation regarding all of the individual rinks in the area.
Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District
Over two years ago, the Winterhawks announced their intention to open a new dual sheet arena at the Howard M. Terpenning Recreation Complex in Beaverton, located near the Nike campus. It was described as a public-private relationship, with operations managed by the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District. As recently as early 2018, it was slated for a late 2019 opening date. Shovels have yet to break ground, though, and the rejection of the Winterhawks’ Minimum Wage Bill by the Oregon State Senate cast some doubt over the project. Financing is also an issue, as naming rights remain for sale for the arena, suggesting a lack of private donations. Interestingly, THPRD sent lobbyists to Salem to support the Winterhawks’ Bill, and the Park and Rec Director is (supposedly) a hockey parent, so they have some skin in the game as well.
The most assuring bit of news regarding the facility over the past few months was a job posting on THPRD’s website for a facility technician that included ice rink maintenance in the description. Should the Minimum Wage Bill not pass in the 2019 Oregon Legislative Assembly, meaning the Winterhawks do not receive their exemption, the arena likely would not come to fruition quite as planned. That said, the project would be easily continued by private investors (including any pro team that were to materialize in Portland), so the Winterhawks aren’t as essential to the arena’s development as one might infer.
Winterhawks Skating Center
With crowded locker rooms and a facility showing its age, many of Portland’s transplants have an unfavorable first impression of this arena. Located next to the campus of Jesuit High School, it made sense for the school to purchase the rink a few years ago. The quality of the ice itself has improved recently, and the leaky roof is no longer a nuisance. It seems every year when it shuts down in July for annual maintenance there are whispers about whether or not it will re-open, but it remains resilient and an important cornerstone of Portland’s hockey community.
The ice time at WSC is devoted mostly to the Jr. Winterhawks youth program, and the relatively central location (compared to the other rinks) is an upside for hockey parents. Across the street is the PDX Sportscenter, where the Jr. Winterhawks perform their dryland training. Love it or hate it, WSC is here to stay and remains vital to Portland’s youth hockey program. Despite granting all available peak hours to youth hockey, every year the Jr. Winterhawks have to turn down potential players due to the lack of ice time. This issue is exacerbated by the Jr. Winterhawks no longer being able to use the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland due to the prohibitively high cost of ice time at the venue.
Sherwood Ice Arena
Located southwest of Portland in the exurb of Sherwood, the region’s nicest facility is where Portland’s adult hockey community is best served. With 9 different leagues serving almost 60 teams complimented by strict oversight to ensure parity, adult players convene from all over the region to get their hockey fix. While they provide some ice time to the Jr. Winterhawks, it is clear that the adult program is the priority. This may harm the potential for growth of the sport in Oregon, but it’s hard to justify slaughtering a cash cow when trying to turn a profit.
The arena was very clearly built with room to expand; a large grass field the size and shape of an ice sheet lies between the parking lot and the east end of the building. The city of Sherwood is concerned with parking capacity issues, so that will require attention before it allows development of a second sheet. Curiously, a Mexican restaurant is located on the far end of the parking lot, but cars never seem to be parked there by patrons. How it remains in business is a mystery, but should it close down or be bought out, bulldozing it would alleviate some of the parking concerns.
Mountain View Ice Arena
Just north of Portland in Vancouver, Washington, Mountain View was nearly closed earlier this year by its owner, City Bible, in order to make room for their school’s expansion. When some zoning issues stalled City Bible’s development plans, the facility operators offered to buy the arena in order to keep it open. They were given a year to come up with the $4 million purchase price, and a lack of pleas for assistance is a good sign that they are on track. As the closest arena for much of Portland’s east side, the rink serves just as large of a segment of the local hockey community as Sherwood and WSC.
Castle Rock, Washington
Roughly an hour north of downtown Portland and an hour and a half south of Olympia (both assuming no traffic), Castle Rock is a small community of roughly 2,000 residents between Portland and Seattle on I-5. Over a year ago, Greg Meakin, the original developer of Bremerton Ice Center in the Puget Sound, set his sights on Castle Rock as the location for his second arena project in Washington. Having relinquished his interest in Bremerton Ice Center only a year after opening it in 2003, he wants to own an arena again after learning some painful lessons from the process the first time around. He envisions a two sheet facility supplemented by outdoor fields for football and baseball. While the community of Castle Rock isn’t large enough to fill the two sheets (and various fields) on its own, the intent is to host tournaments as often as possible to bring travel teams from Portland, Seattle and Canada to town. Meakin was recently hospitalized, but is now discharged and hopefully back to work on this complex.
While not in the Portland metro, the success of the recently-christened ice rink at The Pavilion in Bend is worth noting. Paid for with mostly public funding and opened in 2015, the rink is a rousing success with demand exceeding expectations. There is room for growth as well; because the rink is not yet fully enclosed, the season is short and somewhat dependent on the weather. While it demonstrates that Oregon taxpayers are willing to pay for ice rinks, the downside to public funding is the city blocked further inquiries into building privately-funded sheets that would compete with the public site.
Portland’s hockey community experienced some highs and lows over the past few years with announced openings and closings of rinks, but the status quo held out for the time being. We need more sheets of ice, which it appears is being addressed. Even if the Winterhawks back out of the Tualatin Hills facility, the groundwork is laid for another private entity to take their place. As usual, cautious optimism is the best approach.