Set to open in 2018, the Great Park Ice & Sports Complex will be the largest in California and one of the largest in the U.S.
The growth of hockey in Orange County - which for a long time has been a priority for the Ducks organization - took a major step forward this afternoon in Irvine. The Ducks, H&S Ventures, Irvine Ice Foundation and the City of Irvine officially broke ground on a new state-of-the-art public skating facility at the Orange County Great Park.
The facility will open in June 2018, and at a staggering 280,000 square feet will be the largest in California and one of the largest in the U.S. It will include three NHL-standard ice rinks and one Olympic-sized, as well as a 2,500 seat arena.
The facility will be managed by the THE RINKS Ice Management Team, which currently operates four Southern California ice facilities. The new Great Park Ice Complex will be owned by the newly formed Irvine Ice Foundation, a nonprofit organization which will be made up of locally based civic leaders.
Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli, whose Samueli Foundation will serve as the major contributor to the Irvine Ice Foundation, were among those who spoke to an audience of dignitaries and local residents at the event.
"Building this from the ground up is a dream come true," Henry 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."
Located near the Great Park's Palm Court and adjacent to the Festival Site parking area, the Community Ice Facility will be home to a number of activities in addition to hockey, including public recreational skating, competitive and recreational figure skating, curling, broomball and additional community events.
"There are very few rinks in South County, so we needed it here." Susan Samueli said. "With the great Ducks staff and at H&S, it was only bound to happen because everybody was dreaming and having great vision of what we can do with hockey in Orange County. So we're thrilled."
The facility will also give the ever-growing Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (now up to 48 teams) an appropriate location to host highly attended games as well as highly anticipated figure skating competitions and other events that require additional seating. In addition, the $100 million plus facility will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified as part of the NHL Green initiative.
"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."
With the addition of this new facility, the Anaheim Ducks RINKS Program, which includes both ice and incline facilities, will now have 11 sheets of ice for use. The organization's Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry sponsored 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."
All proceeds generated from the Great Park complex will go to further the growth of ice sports and activities locally.
"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."