In the cold winter months on the Palouse, there is a struggle to find fun physical activities nearby. The Palouse Ice Rink in Moscow offers a solution to this issue.
“I don’t think most people realize what a fantastic asset this is to the community,” said peewee hockey coach Mark Mumford.
He said it provides an activity for children and adults alike to participate in, bringing the entire community together.
Mumford said he played hockey when he was younger and began skating again at the rink a few years ago when his son was old enough to start hockey.
“I said ‘If you’ll join, I’ll join,’ and that’s the way it turned out,” he said.
The ice rink is only open for a short period of time, generally between mid- October and April, said Gary Qualmann, who said he helped build the rink and has been working there since it opened around 16 years ago. He said although they have a refrigeration system, opening time is highly dependent on the weather.
“We’re basically a tent over a sheet of ice,” Qualmann said. “We have to wait until it gets pretty cold at night to do it.”
During the summer months, Qualmann said the rink offers roller-skating and an avenue for roller derby practices. He said the rink offers multiple skating opportunities in the winter including figure skating, youth and adult hockey, curling and events like Science on Ice.
“Science on Ice we’re very proud of,” Qualmann said.
Science on Ice teaches fifth graders lessons in physics generally related to water and ice Wednesday mornings, he said. Qualmann said it is a popular program for schools in Moscow and surrounding areas. The rink also offers a Learn-to-Skate program with five sessions in the fall and five in the spring, he said.
“We’re booked hard for the most part,” Qualmann said.
Mumford said the rink is trying to raise money to become a full-size rink. He said this would provide opportunities especially for hockey players over the age of 13 and for University of Idaho and Washington State University club hockey teams who need a full-size sheet to play tournaments on.
“Our sheet of ice is about three-fourths the size,” he said.
He said if the rink was full-size, UI and WSU would have a place to call home. This entails they would play games in the community and bring people throughout the northwest to Moscow, he said. He said it might encourage the universities to have MCAA teams.
“That would really attract a lot of people to see the games and come to the community and spend money,” he said.
Mumford said they are currently trying to raise $3 million to complete the project. He said much of the money comes from community members involved at the rink, such as hockey families. He said if the rink raises one million dollars, the Moscow City Council will match the donation.
“We’re going to try and break ground spring of next year, that’s what we hope,” Qualmann said.
The nearest full-size ice rink is at Eastern Washington University in Cheney which is where the university hockey club teams and hockey players over 13 play games and tournaments, Mumford said.
Nina Rydalch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NinaRobin7