Sports programs scrambling after Glenwood Springs Ice Rink goes out |

Sports programs scrambling after Glenwood Springs Ice Rink goes out

Rich Allen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Glenwood Springs High School hockey coach Tim Cota runs through drills with players during practice.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A mechanical failure at the Glenwood Springs Ice Rink disabled the cooling system, leading to the shutdown of the facility for the foreseeable future and cancellation or relocation of all programming just as local youth hockey programs get underway.

Red tape, system complications, supply chain and other issues have thawed the sheet for the foreseeable future.

“We’re doing everything that we can and are working to determine when we might be able to get the rink back up, but the rink is not expected to be back online for many weeks,” Glenwood Springs Public Information Officer Bryana Starbuck said in a statement. “The City of Glenwood Springs has made this a high priority; however, there are a lot of variables and unknowns at this point, and unfortunately, we do not have an estimated reopening date at this time.”

An elbow fitting in the refrigerant system failed Nov. 14, leading to a leak, according to the city.

To compound issues, it is not yet known if low pressure sensors functioned properly and shut down the system’s four compressors. All four of the compressors may have experienced some level of damage and at least one may have been damaged irreparably. The compressors can only be tested once the refrigerant is replaced, which presents another set of challenges and delays.

The freon refrigerant used in the system is no longer permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency and was grandfathered in from the old system. Starbuck said that acquiring a new, EPA-approved refrigerant could take several weeks due to global supply chain issues.

Only once all leaks are sealed, refrigerant purchased and compressors tested and fixed can ice be made, which in itself could take up to 10 days if warm temperatures persist.

In the meantime, the facility’s public programs are on hold, and local hockey clubs are having to get creative to continue practices and games.

Hockey organizations scramble

The Glenwood Springs High School Demons and Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association began a desperate search for ice slots locally, forced to travel as far as Grand Junction to lace their skates.

Both groups sent players to Grand Junction’s River City Sportplex — formerly known as the Glacier Ice Arena. It’s an hour and a half drive from Glenwood Springs, a distance made feasible only by the flexibility of Thanksgiving break. Open slots for rent are sparse, and many are available only in the morning or midday, which don’t work when students are in school.

The Demons have used Stubler Memorial Field — the high school’s football field — for “dry practice,” doing conditioning and other drills. With their first game scheduled for Dec. 3 at Mullen, it’s crunch time to prepare a roster that saw more than 10 seniors graduate in May.

A Glenwood Springs High School hockey player waits for instruction during practice at the ice rink before the start of last year’s season.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

“We’ve got just under two weeks until our first game, and it’s really important for us to just be getting out as a team and working hard, getting into shape, even off the ice,” Glenwood Springs High School hockey player Aiden Senn said.

A bright spot in the situation, however, is for eight of the team’s players that reside in the Grand Junction area to begin with. Junior Kaleb Holm goes to school in Fruita and grew up in Mesa County. He, along with seven other players, make daily commutes to Glenwood Springs for hockey practice since there’s no high school program there. The players trade off driving responsibilities and often have to leave school early.

The rink being down has provided a role reversal for Holm after making the trip east for the past two seasons.

“It’s nice to pay it forward and have them see what it’s like to come down here,” Holm said. “It’s definitely so nice just to be able to drive 10 minutes to practice. I make sure to let everyone know to have safe travels back home when practice is over.”

For the youth hockey organization, the challenge is only amplified with its 150-plus players. They’ve done off-ice training at the Glenwood Springs Community Center and sent players to Eagle and Grand Junction.

Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association Executive Director T.K. Kwiatkowski said participation is down around 50% at practices outside Glenwood Springs.

“This time off the ice is going to be detrimental to our player development,” Kwiatkowski said. “The other associations who are taking Thanksgiving off or take Christmas break off, those are three weeks that we use to catch up.”

Because the Glenwood rink is outdoors, it is dependent on weather factors for operation — part of the reason there could be a delay reopening the rink. It also leads to a later season, giving Glenwood-based teams a later start on their home season than other teams with indoor accommodations.

The youth hockey association began programming Nov. 1 and hosted two league jamboree weekends before shutting down.

Kwiatkowski said the association lost three key events to the closure already, including a Try Hockey for Free event, a Skatesgiving fundraiser event and a Mite Jamboree, which can bring in more than 200 kids.

In his optimistic mind, Kwiatkowski sees the indefinite closure as “conservative,” and hopes to see the rink open sooner rather than later.

The youth organization has games scheduled Dec. 11-12 and the Demons’ first home game is slated for Dec. 17. As of now, those games have not yet been rescheduled.


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