Renovated Woodland Ice Rink Celebrates Grand Opening

The Nov. 29 celebration coincides with the Dec. 1-3 Craft Brewer’s Cup at Woodland Park in Kalispell

The Flathead Valley Hockey Association is celebrating the grand opening of the refurbished Woodland Ice Rink, including a permanent surface, in Kalispell this week, an occasion that coincides with the seventh edition of the Craft Brewer’s Cup.

The official opening is Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. in Woodland Park, while the Craft Brewer’s Cup, an annual hockey tournament and brewfest, is held Dec. 1-3. The brewfest, from noon to 6 p.m. on Dec. 2, will feature a lineup of nearly 20 beers. The tournament will feature 12 teams.

The event raises funds for the Flathead Valley Hockey Association (FVHA) and its youth hockey programs.

For the past 18 months, volunteers with the FVHA have been working long hours to implement more than $500,000 in upgrades at the outdoor ice rink. The nonprofit organization raised some of the funds but paid for the rest in sweat equity from volunteers, including numerous parents with kids who use the facility.

“A lot of people helped, but a small crew came to the rink night after night after night,” said Shawn Baker, the volunteer project manager. “We saved close to $300,000 by doing the work ourselves — 137 people with more than 2,000 hours from August to early November.”

The FVHA formed in 2007 as a nonprofit organization committed to fostering youth hockey programs at Woodland Ice Rink while transforming the facility from a temporary rink in need of attention into a permanent and thoroughly refurbished ice-skating and hockey complex.

The marquee upgrade is its permanent concrete surface and piping, crucial to forming a permanent outdoor ice rink as it will now be far easier to make and maintain ice. Poor ice quality was previously a frequent issue. The FVHA says it may be possible to now have outdoor ice from October to March.

Major supporters of the project include Eisinger Auto, Anderson’s Masonry, Western Building Center, Flathead Electric Co-Op and The Foley Family Charitable Foundation.

“It’s fitting as we celebrate 10 years,” said Christy Eisinger, board president of FVHA. “This is just the infusion our hockey program needed to keep moving forward — for our kids, adults and the community.”

“We are celebrating this big win,” added Sara Busse, FVHA fundraising chair, “but we are definitely looking ahead for the next chapter of hockey in Kalispell. We still need an additional $15,000 to pay all the bills and finish the season strong, but this gives us confidence to look to the future.”

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