Ice age Arrives
In the midst of a stormy week of wind and rain, a sunny Southern California day greeted some 300 civic, community and sports leaders gathered at the Orange County Great Park for the groundbreaking of what Mayor Donald P. Wagner predicted would become a “community icon” for Irvine.
The Great Park Ice Complex will have four sheets of ice for hockey, figure skating and public ice-skating in a beautifully designed, 280,000-square-foot, state-of-the-sport facility. Mayor Wagner, Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott, Councilwoman Christina Shea, Councilmember Melissa Fox and Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway, and were joined by Anaheim Ducks owners and noted philanthropists Susan and Henry Samueli for what they called an “ice breaking.” Construction is now underway, with the ice facility set to open in 2018.
The complex will be open to the public most of the time, providing a much-needed venue for a variety of ice sports and recreation such as youth and adult hockey programs, regional and national tournaments, figure skating, and open public skating. It will include three NHL-standard ice rinks and one Olympic-sized one, as well as a 2,500-seat arena. It will be the largest such ice complex in California and one of the largest in the U.S. The Anaheim Ducks will have a dedicated training area in the facility, and are expected to practice there on occasion.
The new ice complex at the Orange County Great Park will complement the 175-acre multi-sports parks, the first phase of which is set to debut next year, creating the premier recreational and competitive sports destination in Southern California.
The newly formed Irvine Ice Foundation will own the new Great Park Ice Complex, a nonprofit organization, which will be made up of locally, based civic leaders, and operate on a 50-year lease with the city. The $100 million plus facility will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified as part of the NHL Green initiative. All proceeds generated from the Great Park complex will go to further the growth of ice sports and activities locally.
Ducks’ owners Henry and Susan Samueli, whose Samueli Foundation will serve as the major contributor to the Irvine Ice Foundation with some $35 million dedicated to it, were among those who spoke to an audience of dignitaries and local residents at the event.
“There are very few rinks in South County, so we needed it here.” Susan Samueli said. Everybody was dreaming and having great vision of what we can do with hockey in Orange County. So we’re thrilled.”
“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.”
The facility will give the ever-growing Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (now up to 48 teams after starting from zero when the Samuelis bought the Ducks) an appropriate location to host highly attended games as well as highly anticipated figure skating competitions and other events that require additional seating.
When the new Great Park Ice Complex opens, the Anaheim Ducks RINKS Program, which includes both ice and inline facilities (including one in Irvine), will have 11 sheets of ice for use. The organization’s Learn to Play programs are running over capacity with a six-month waiting list for all 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.
“The obvious thing it does is grow capacity in Orange County,” Henry Samueli said. “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, so we can get more kids, more high school teams, more adult leagues. It will grow the sport of hockey from top to bottom.”
“It’s a dream,” said Michael Schulman, the Ducks’ CEO and future managing director of the Great Park complex. “The city came together and agreed upon this, and allowing us to be their first private enterprise here is a big thing. This will be a place that people will look at as a model all over the world. I hope somebody this thing will be so full that we’ll need to do more.”
“This is a great day for the city,” said Irvine mayor Donald Wagner. “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.”