Duplicate Blue Jackets’ Winter Park on the National Mall

If Washington couldn’t host a Winter Classic on the National Mall, hosting some shinny could be a nice consolation prize.

The thought that a marquee event like the Winter Classic would ever be on the Mall was somewhere between daydreaming and lunacy and the Caps dismissed that idea back in 2012. The reason being is that there would be no way to get 20,000 to 40,000 quality temporary seats placed on the Mall.

But you still could put an ice rink there for a couple of months.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have brought outdoor hockey to the city’s downtown this year after trying it out in 2015 to build excitement for the All-Star Game. The team calls this regulation size rink and its environs Winter Park.

Here’s what the Jackets said back in 2015 about the rink:

It features everything you’d see in a normal hockey rink or hockey arena, except for a roof. Locker rooms, skate rentals, concessions, merchandise tents, a broadcast perch for the FOX Sports Ohio “Blue Jackets Live” broadcast team of Bill Davidge and Brian Giesenschlag…this rink has it all, and it figures to be the centerpiece of a one-of-a-kind experience that the Blue Jackets and several of their local partners want to bring to the city.

I saw a few flyers about the rink when I saw the Caps play in Columbus on Jan. 2 and was both super pumped about a regulation rink with all the proper dasher boards and glass in place for public use and super bummed that it wasn’t going to be open until after we left town.

The Blue Jackets have not only hosted public skating, but team practices (where John Tortorella earned his fractured ribs) and pick-up hockey for the public (!!!).

Yes, it’s $25 but shit, they have heated tents to get changed in. Well worth it, boys. Even if it means having to play at 6 a.m. I was amazed at the accessibility of the rink being across the street from Nationwide Arena in McFerson Commons.

(The Blue Jackets also had another idea that’s on-point: Dad’s Charity Game. Alas, this wasn’t at the outdoor rink and instead at Nationwide Arena where the players’ fathers played against First Responders.)

The Caps have held outdoor practices when they could at the Chevy Chase Club, but that’s not quite accessible given the private club atmosphere. With the Caps Convention gone for a couple of years now, this would be a neat way to do something different in the District and more for the community.

The National Gallery of Art has an outdoor ice skating rink, but it’s strictly for skating. You won’t see a full-on game going on here or Ovi working on his shot here.

The Mall is just as accessible with a Metro stop on the west end, is relatively flat and D.C. is definitely a walking city. If a budget team like the Blue Jackets are able to find sponsors and build a full rink, then the Caps could and have Kettler in charge of managing it.

The only thing is I don’t know how much the National Park Service would charge to rent out that large enough of a space on the Mall.

Cost may not be the issue, really. It’s probably the incredible restrictions for special events on NPS land. The chief one is about the storage of propane cylinders and restrictions of storing fuel on NPS property.

That could cause an issue if the only Zamboni you have uses propane as a fuel source. And then there’s the electrical access.

Marketing and advertising restrictions would mean the Caps would have to be careful how they use it and market it. Strictly promoting a commercial brand (NHL, Capitals) is a no-no. A special event featuring advertising of sponsors? It’s OK.

Oh, and this part won’t help you sign up season-ticket holders:

Soliciting personal information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, zip codes, etc., or any other such information which may be used for future solicitation or marketing purposes, is strictly prohibited.

Sigh.

OK, I’m not so sure now. I don’t even know how you’d be able to do this for a weekend rink if D.C. ever gets an All-Star Game. There would have to be a huge community or charitable cause, like raising funds for the National Mall, to mask this as in order to work. Exactly the mission of the rink. The community part—not the part about hiding under the guise of a charity.

It would probably be less restrictive to do something like this on the West Potomac Park, which is south of the Lincoln Memorial along the Tidal Basin. This is where you’ll see some major concerts like the Landmark Music Festival which was like a D.C. Lollapalooza with a charitable cause (though how much it ultimately raised, who knows).

Hey, nothing’s going on in RFK during the winter anymore other than using its parking lots to deposit snow. The stadium has way more space than you need, but you’re not staffing the whole stadium for this. You’re closing off access to the upper bowl, and really, any bowl. Just get people access to the locker rooms to change and a way to walk out to the rink.

(Honestly, I know that’s a pipe dream. But maybe offering to do an outdoor World Juniors or NCAA game there would be a way in.)

D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has ballfields that could work but with them mainly being in neighborhoods and beside schools it doesn’t have the same sort of ambience or access.

All that leaves you with is fields at American and Howard universities. Ehhhhh.

None of those other choices have the allure or accessibility of the National Mall.

Mr. Leonsis, it’s time to Rock the Rink on America’s front porch.

 

 

Puckpourri

IMG_1436.JPGIt’s been well over a month since I last updated this blog, and that’s unusual for me.

It’s hard to keep pounding the keyboard when the progress or results you’d hope isn’t there. I’m not talking about clicks, but just movement on the hockey front.

And each day I’m further removed from my life in Florida, so quality updates are harder to come by. I’m trying to stay away from blogging about the Caps and Bolts because there’s such a crowded space there that I’m focusing on customer service at ice rinks, grassroots hockey and ice rink development.

I managed to see a Caps game on the road in Columbus that managed to inspire me despite the loss, and that’ll be an upcoming post.

That said, here’s what’s happening in my hockey world, for better or worse.

Wisp Rink

The hopes that 3v3 pond hockey would happen on this outdoor refrigerated rink has dwindled with the current manager. It’s just a weird situation where I just need more help from other people to break through.

Wisp Resort in McHenry, Md., is for various reasons suddenly not interested in pond hockey on its rink after receiving an initial OK from the resort manager. A manager in a smaller role that is inexperienced with rinks said no, solely based her decision on talking to the rink manufacturer.

I sent a detailed rebuttal, discussed options that could make it work along with revenue and it was a non-starter.

I started a petition on Change.org in hopes something could come for 2016-17 winter season. But I might just have better luck hoping for a manager experienced with rinks to take over that area. (Or ideally, someone else building a rink in the area. Just not that plastic synthetic crap.)

To my surprise, there are 20 supporters of the petition so far. From speaking to people both in person and online, I was surprised by their negative view of Wisp but I didn’t go into asking what made them feel that way. But at least this would be a way to earn some goodwill again in the community.

Pond Hockey

My pond hockey group — Frostburg-Cumberland-Deep Creek Hockey — was able to at least squeeze in one game with three of us on a pond in Finzel, Md., before the beast of a nor’easter dumped about three feet of snow here.

The section of Cranberry Swamp we played on was perfect for pond hockey. The water doesn’t keep a large depth and after three days of subfreezing temperatures it’s solid. The only thing we would need is more players, more daylight and enough energy to shovel the rest of the snow.

And when the snow storm passed through, there wasn’t any way any of us could get to that swamp or any other place to play. Now temperatures will reach into the 40s and maybe even low 50s for the next 10 days. That might have been our only shot at pond hockey for the season.

Elsewhere, a backyard rink popped up on the baseball diamond north of Chambersburg, Pa.

The Herald-Mail wrote about this basic outdoor rink at Greene Township Municipal Park that recently opened. Of course, the story was posted the day before the snowstorm leveled the region. And now that everyone is digging out, the ice is melting as we’re warming up.

I was semi-furious when I read about it because I haven’t heard anyone at the Hagerstown rink talk about it–maybe nobody there knew either. But worse, the paper reports that the township purchased the $4,000 kit three years ago and didn’t have the right people in place to use it to its maximum potential and get the word out.

Right now, the rink wasn’t allowing any “organized events.” To me, that means pond hockey, so it’s another bridge to cross when it either gets colder. Or probably for the 2016-17 season.

North Central Recreation Center

I haven’t seen any more changes or progress to scheduling at the often closed/seldom used Ebensburg, Pa., rink.

I’m being a bit patient with this as the new general manager is having to overhaul operations to the much larger and famous Cambria County War Memorial Arena and this community rink. These are publicly owned rinks managed by a private firm, SMG.

The manager, Steve St. John, hoped to hire people after the first of the year and that’s the part that can drag based on being able to find the right person and get approvals from his company. And then the blizzard happened. So, it could February until we see staff there at that rink and probably even later for noticeable changes as leagues will wind down their seasons by May.

Morgantown Ice Arena

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The only way a schedule of pick-up and stick and puck will be posted online with enough notice is if I drive out and take photos of the schedule board. It’s just amazing to me that nobody at the rink or BOPARC can find an easy way to post a daily public schedule online.

Florida Rinks

More pictures continue to be posted at a few Florida ice rink projects.

The Florida Hospital Center Ice rink in Wesley Chapel is moving along after a slow start. Seeing a frame is good enough for me but the excitement really doesn’t set in until you see the finished product. I don’t see any way that the Lightning will continue to practice in Brandon after this is built.

And at the original Lightning practice rink, the Clearwater Ice Arena also posted photos of its expansion project. I think once the new rink opens, people will be asking for them to close the original part to have that area redone. I don’t know how you can make that happen because you need more space for the benches and the end zones.

I have not seen a single photo of progress of the Orlando Hockey Center in Winter Gardens, Fla., which is supposed to become the practice rink of the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears.

The website, http://orlandohockeycenter.com, is still a splash image.

The last article written was in May 2015 with the Orlando Sentinel’s GrowthSpotter reporting that there wasn’t a timeline for construction, let alone a groundbreaking despite the project already receiving municipal approval. Did funding go sideways? Is ownership potentially changing, leading to a move of the Solar Bears? Those are just two of the obvious reasons this project could be delayed. And of course, 100 more reasons why it’s not being built yet.

I spotted a couple of tweets from Solar Bears fans wondering about an update and CC’d GrowthSpotter for more.

Hockey Retail

For Sports Maryland is changing its awkward name to the slightly less awkward but more sensible East Coast Hockey and Skating Supplies. Why can’t it just be East Coast Hockey Supply?

The pro-shop, which had locations at the Ice Gardens in Laurel, Md., and Rockville (Md.) Ice Arena recently opened in the Chilled Ponds Ice Arena in Chesapeake, Va., which is in the Virginia Beach area. Thus the Maryland part isn’t needed anymore.

The company posted on Facebook that the name change is effective Feb. 1.

In national hockey retailer news, the parent company of Bauer purchased Easton Hockey from an equity group this month in what ended a dramatic period where an ex-chairman of Bauer tried to oust the company CEO because of disagreements with the company’s strategy. Some of that strategy included opening Bauer Experience retail stores.

I could see some of that reasoning of not agreeing with the opening of Bauer stores, especially in a retail environment that is moving more online. But with a nice product like this, it would be helpful to have the company that makes the gear to train employees directly to sell the gear because of the fitting that needs to be done and warranty questions.

Gear reps typically visit pro shops to educate employees on new products but not all the employees are there at larger stores and couple that with turnover, then you’re getting second-hand information that could be lost in translation.

I’ll expand on the Bauer-Easton deal and the landscape of equipment manufacturers in a future post.