Clearwater (Fla.) Ice Arena is finally expanding, three years after Tampa Bay’s oldest ice rink announced it would renovate and expand.
Construction is underway, essentially building a brand new ice rink as an add-on to the 30-year-old, cramped facility, the ice rink announced on its Facebook page. The rink’s staff posted on its website that the space should open in 2016.
The rink is being built on two floors with a varsity locker room for a local high school team, additional locker rooms and showers, party rooms, additional fitness areas and on the second floor, a dryland training area.
What shouldn’t be overlooked is that a second pad of ice is being added, and one that is actually NHL regulation size. The existing sheet at Clearwater Ice Arena (which is actually located in Largo), is just shy of NHL regulation size.
Take a look at the first-floor plans in the photo below:
The rink once served as the practice facility for the Tampa Bay Lightning when the franchise first started and played games at the Florida Fairgrounds and the Thunderdome in St. Petersburg. I don’t know how those guys did it.
Getting to the locker rooms from the lobby is a challenge because there is barely enough room between the boards and a wall to get your hockey bag—especially a goalie bag—through without getting stuck. A support beam in the way doesn’t help.
The floor at the benches is tilted, the ice has ridges on hot days and can separate from the boards.
All that being said, ice rink renovations aren’t cheap and aren’t easy. Fortunately, the rink has been owned by prominent radiologist Dr. Manuel Rose, who is the official radiologist of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rays and pretty much anyone else in the region.
To his credit, in that first year Rose renovated and expanded the lobby, with automatic sliding doors and room to walk with your gear. A gym was added in the back for weight training and cardio workouts for teams and the showers were also cleaned up and upgraded.
It will serve Rose and CIA well to expand now because since he first received approval from the City of Largo to expand, the ice rink landscape has significantly changed in Tampa Bay. Yes, there more competition from newer facilities in Hockey Paradise.
Dave Beaudin, who was once the hockey director for Clearwater’s ice rink, left to join partners to build Xtra Ice in Tampa, serving as a hockey training facility with a mini rink big enough for four-on-four hockey and ideal for teaching youth players. Several Tampa Bay Lightning alums, including John Tucker and Mathieu Garon, have taught sessions there.
To the north in Wesley Chapel, Florida’s largest ice complex is under construction with four pads of ice, including an Olympic sheet. Florida Hospital Center Ice (what a name), is under construction and is expected to open in August 2016, but I don’t know if that’s really possible given the size of this project.
Better late than never, amirite?