More than 100 people, including Gunnison County Commissioner Phil Chamberland, Mt. Crested Butte mayor William Buck, second-home owners, financial donors and longtime residents, gathered on the shortest day of the year to officially dedicate the new Big Mine Ice Arena.
Located on the southwest side of Crested Butte, the almost 26,000-square-foot structure was constructed this past summer. The official grand opening is slated to take place Friday, December 30. Public skating will open the rink at 3:30 p.m. The first official game scheduled for the rink is the annual Wolfpack Alumni Game at 5 o’clock followed by a 7 p.m. Pigs vs. Storm battle royal. At 8:45 the Red Ladies will take to the ice for a game against the Queen Bees.
During the dedication ceremonies on Wednesday, December 21, Crested Butte Parks and Recreation director Jake Jones acknowledged the hard work put in by a core group of people who, along with him, included engineer and surveyor Norman Whitehead, Crested Building and Zoning director Bob Gillie, and Carl Reinman, who began as a pro-bono consultant for the concrete and steel aspects of the job. “He consulted on this project 15 years ago with Jerry Deverell for free,” Jones explained. “He was eventually the low bidder on the retaining wall and concrete footers as well as for the steel structure. His bid was six figures lower than the others. That’s how much he believed in the project.”
Jones pointed out the holistic nature of the project by mentioning those who had contributed equipment, manpower or money. “It was a real community effort,” he said. “The people who supported the project are too numerous to mention.
“Another thing we are proud of is that the only out-of-state contractor was for the dasher boards,” Jones continued. “We kept the money in the county and as local and in-state as possible.”
Crested Butte Wolfpack hockey captain Ben Reaman reminisced about the magic of playing puck at the uncovered rink, especially during moonlit nights, but he was excited about the ramifications that came with a roof.
“There will be another month of ice every season and that’s going to be great for the little kids growing up in town now like Cody D’Aquilla who want to work on their skills and get even better and more passionate about hockey,” Reaman said pointing to the six-year old mini-mite in the crowd. “This is an awesome addition. And now we won’t have to play in six inches of snow when we get a good storm. Awesome.”
Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep said that his council didn’t have much to do with the project but he was excited to see the roof up and the skating community excited. “It’s been a longtime coming for Crested Butte and it’s great.” He then introduced longtime councilperson and former mayor Jim Schmidt, who gave a little history of the project and the place.
“The name of the facility is Big Mine Ice Rink and that’s because the Big Mine was located right behind us here,” Schmidt said. “In fact, the coke ovens were located on this spot and some of the old bricks from those ovens are incorporated in the project.”
Schmidt said when he was elected mayor in 1991 the council began discussing the idea of a rink. Within a year some money was allocated for the project and the rink was constructed on land obtained from the Trapper’s Crossing development. While a cover remained elusive for 20 years, the fact there is one now was a point of pride for Schmidt. “It’s looks bigger than I expected but it’s a great, positive step for Crested Butte.”
And finally the Reverend Tim Clark, a longtime hockey player in town, noted that he has spilled plenty of blood on the rink so he knows it well. He gave a spirited, poetic invocation for the new facility that ended in applause from those gathered to commemorate the recreational milestone.
While an initial flooding of ice had been laid on the rink, it was as rough as the cold wind that blew through the facility during the dedication. The rink itself appeared to be larger than last winter but it’s the same NHL-sized rink. However, putting it under a roof, putting up new boards and actual hockey rink glass gives the feel of something bigger for the town.
As the preacher noted: “Hats off to the town for supporting our skating, And congrats to you all for your patiently waiting.”