Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

October 14, 2012

HOPKINS: When built, arena must fill gaps

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It was terrific news when I heard last month that there was some significant movement in building a new ice arena in Lockport. With nearly 70,000 people in eastern Niagara County, it’s hard to believe that the nearest arena is on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield.

There are six total sheets of ice in the county. Two at Hockey Outlet in Wheatfield, two at the Hyde Park pavilion in Niagara Falls and two at Niagara University, all are 20 to 30 minutes away. Unbelievable.

Yet, as exciting as it is to think that there could be two brand new rinks available, the building will have to be used wisely. Many in the hockey community say there isn’t enough ice to accommodate the players. That’s partially true.

There are 19 sheets of ice in Erie County (excluding First Niagara Center) and at least three more are planned, two in downtown Buffalo and there’s talk of one in Clarence, behind Eastern Hills Mall. Erie County has 14 youth hockey organizations based there, and another three based in Niagara County. In terms of participants, some programs are small, others are very large. Youth hockey has several age divisions, from 8-and-under to 18-and-under plus high school and junior levels.

Throw in public skating at some rinks plus figure skating and other skating-related activities, and you have some very busy buildings. There’s not enough ice for all of the hockey players, figure skaters and recreational skaters. During prime hours, that is.

Walk into any arena on a weekday at 10 a.m. and look around. You’ll very likely find it empty. Yet, step into that building after 3 p.m. and you’ll see plenty of activity. On a weekend, rinks start to get busy around

7 a.m. and many of them are still hopping at 10 p.m.

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