The soft opening of the ice complex in January drew nearly 1,000 skaters to try out the ice on two of the rinks. FivePoint Arena, an Olympic-sized ice venue that seats 2,500 people, is open, as is one of the other three National Hockey League-sized ice sheets. The two other ice rinks, a snack bar, restaurant and Anaheim Ducks team store are expected to debut in the next few months.
The large FivePoint Arena will host a wide variety of sporting and entertainment events. Other features of the Great Park ICE complex will include a restaurant/sports bar, event spaces, classrooms, and outdoor public spaces and amenities. The Ducks will continue practicing at the Honda Center, but will also use the Great Park rink when the arena is hosting other events.
“We can’t wait to get the whole building open,” said Art Trottier, vice president of the Anaheim Ducks RINKS, in an OC Register article. “We’d like the public to just come take a look at it.”
The facility will be managed by the THE RINKS Ice Management Team, which has four other ice facilities in Southern California.
Great Park ICE and FivePoint Arena have already hosted hockey tournaments for youth and a sled hockey tournament for adult teams from the Pacific Sled Hockey League for physically disabled players. The teams from California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are sponsored by and often named after a National Hockey League team.
Competing in Irvine were the San Diego Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Las Vegas Knights and the Colorado Warriors, a team comprised of injured U.S. servicemen.
The teams include players on the U.S. Development Sled Hockey Team hoping to make the national team for the 2022 Beijing Paralympics. The tournament hosted by the Anaheim Ducks also welcomed four youth teams competing in the first West Coast Youth Sled Hockey Tournament.
Great Park ICE will also give the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL) a new venue. In anticipation, the league announced the expansion of its regular season to 20 games across all varsity divisions. The junior varsity division will also increase to 18 regular season games. With 49 teams now in the ADHSHL, increasing the regular season games is the next step for the expanding league.
“Great Park Ice is a fantastic addition, and we will be using the facility every weekend during the regular season,” says Matt Blanchart, ADHSHL commissioner. “The excitement and growth continue in the positive direction for the league.”
The Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League was established in 2008 with JSerra High School and has added 48 teams in the past 10 seasons.
With the addition of this new facility, the Anaheim Ducks RINKS Program, which includes both ice and incline skating facilities, will now have 11 sheets of ice for use. The organization’s Learn to Play programs sponsored by NHL Ducks stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have had a six-month waiting list for ice sessions.
Additionally, with all four existing RINKS located in north Orange County, the Great Park RINKS location fills the need of a more convenient location for those who live in the southern part of the county.
“All of our rinks are full from morning to night, so the ability to add four rinks is going to relieve some of the capacity,” Henry Samueli said at the groundbreaking for Great Park ICE. “So we can get more kids, more high school teams, more adult leagues. It will grow the sport of hockey from top to bottom.”
And it’s far from just a hockey facility. The All Year Figure Skating Club, which has sent many skaters to the Olympics and other prestigious international figure skating competitions, is moving its base to the new Great Park ICE this winter, according to reports by L.A. Times reporter Helene Elliott.
The club, which has been based in Culver City and Ontario has more than 600 members, and is the fifth-largest figure skating club in the country and the largest on the West Coast. Established in 1939, All Year FSC has hosted over 15 regional championships, seven sectional championships, the 1997 Junior Olympics and was the host club for the 2002 U.S. Championships in Los Angeles.
Some 50 competitive ice skaters from the club are expected to train at Great Park Ice on a daily basis, including elite skaters coached by Rafael Arutunian, who coached 2018 U.S. Olympians Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon.
“Having four surfaces and a seating capacity of about 2,500 creates the potential of bringing in international events, as well as domestic events,” said Doug Williams, the club’s president, in the L.A. Times story.
All Year FSC will host two competitions and two recitals at the facility each year.
“Great Park ICE is going to attract premier figure skating talent to Orange County and will become one of the top training centers in the nation,” said Art Trottier.
Great Park ICE is financed by Irvine Ice Foundation, a nonprofit organization which will be made up of locally based civic leaders funded by Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli, and will be turned over to the city of Irvine after a lease of up to 50 years expires.
“The opening of the Great Park Ice facility is an important milestone that adds to the already unparalleled recreational experiences for Irvine residents and visitors. Along with the other sports venues at the Great Park, the new skating rinks will contribute to the economic health of the city as it attracts visitors from throughout the region, the nation, and the world,” said Bryan Starr, president and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber.
Approved by the Irvine City Council in Nov. 2015, the Great Park ICE complex had an official “ice breaking” in Feb. 2017 and opened some 18 months later in Dec. 2018.
At the ice-breaking. Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli spoke to an audience of dignitaries and local residents.
“Building this from the ground up is a dream come true,” Henry Samueli said. “The Great Park worked out as a perfect partner for us because of the availability of the land and the openness of the city council to engage us in such a massive project. So we’re really thankful for them working so diligently with us to make this a reality.”
“This is a great day for the city,” said Irvine Mayor Don Wagner at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’re going to have four sheets of ice, one of the largest facilities in the country, and we’re going to have the opportunity for our local kids to come play hockey, figure skate and train with the best. This is a first-class operation, a thoroughly professional operation, and it’s going to be a community icon. I’m excited.”