Dozens of Springfield families, government officials, children and students came out Wednesday night to celebrate the grand opening of their newest recreational facility--the NTPRD Chiller ice rink.
The facility is the sixth location and ninth sheet of ice in The Chiller family of rinks built over the past 20 years in the central Ohio area. The Chiller works closely with the Columbus Blue Jackets to offer numerous learn-to-skate programs and provide ice for youth hockey teams, high school hockey and adult hockey leagues throughout central Ohio.
"Our rinks strive to bring the best hockey and skating experience to all of our patrons," said Wendy Herb, the general manager of The Chiller. "This new facility is a great chance for us to expand past Columbus into the greater Ohio area and get more people engaged in the sport of hockey."
The newest Chiller was the final piece of a 13-year, $17 million recreation plan developed and financed by Clark County's National Trail Parks and Recreation Dictrict (NTPRD). While the rink's construction was financed by the county and city of Springfield, The Chiller partnered with the government in order to provide the best facility and services to the residents of Springfield, and will run the day-to-day operations of the rink.
Leann Castillo, Executive Director of the NTPRD, was one of the main board members who worked on the project with both the Clark County government, the Chiller and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"We're thrilled to have a facility like this in Springfield and to partner with these two great organizations," said Castillo. "We're looking forward to building support and involvement in ice hockey and ice skating programs we will offer here. People were asking us every day if it was time to skate yet, and today they finally have the opportunity to do so."
Castillo, Herb and the Chiller team spent months in the Springfield community meeting with business leaders, school officials, teachers, students and families. They all saw that a facility would meet the needs of many residents, some of which often made the one hour drive to Columbus to skate and play at other Chiller locations.
"It was gratifying for us to know that we had such a good reputation to the people of Springfield, even from 45 minutes to an hour away," said Herb. "Since so many families and kids traveled to Columbus to play hockey, this facility allows them to get the same programs in their own backyard.”
One of the key groups to benefit from the brand new facility is Wittenberg University, located in Springfield. The opening ceremony featured a speech by university president Laurie Joyner and an appearance by the school's American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division III team, who will call the NTPRD Chiller home for the coming years. The team will open their home season on Fri., Oct. 25 against Ohio Wesleyan.
"This is a great opportunity for our students and this community," said Joyner. "This has truly been a collaborative project and the Chiller has even committed to employing our students so they'll receive real-world employment opportunities in their field of interest."
Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton had the opportunity to meet several of the Wittenberg players, as well as the first kids to sign up for the youth hockey program at the NTPRD Chiller. He recalled how as a kid, youth hockey was a big part of his life and hopes that this rink will provide the same opportunities for children in the Springfield community.
"Thinking back to my own youth hockey experience, I would've loved to play on a brand new rink," said Horton. "These kids get that chance and they get to be with their friends, be part of a team and learn to play hockey. Hockey is getting really big in Ohio and they get to be part of it now."
The grand opening ceremonies continue through this weekend with open skate times, special discounted rates and hockey games. The schedule of events can be found here.