Matt Burwell

Matt Burwell, president of the Igloo Recreation Center, stands next to the recently purchased Zamboni.

ELKO — It’s not often that you see a Zamboni driving through the streets of Elko. Local residents had a rare sighting a few months back when Matt Burwell, president of the Igloo Recreation Center, was driving the recently purchased Zamboni to its new home at the Igloo. Its appearance stirred up a bit of interest along the way.

“People were honking and waving and basically saying that’s cool,” said Burwell.

The Zamboni, used to resurface ice, is one part of a much larger project taken on by local volunteers in an effort to build a permanent ice rink for use by the entire community.

The Igloo has long been home to much more than hockey. The multi-use recreational facility on Silver Street is also used for soccer, gymnastics, roller derby, and baseball. It is also available for rent by the hour.

What local users of the facility, Igloo board members, and volunteers are trying to do is build an outdoor ice rink located in the back of the building for seasonal use.

“Essentially what we’re trying to build is an outdoor refrigerated ice rink,” said Burwell.

An outdoor ice rink would move hockey games outside on ice, allowing other large users of the facility, such indoor soccer teams, to stay inside for more available playing time. Getting local hockey teams back playing on ice consistently, instead of playing indoors, also opens up the opportunity to play against a greater variety of teams.

In years past, hockey players and skating enthusiasts have used the frozen pond near 12th Street to skate on, but it’s proven unreliable. A seasonal rink will provide a reliable source of ice that is safe and not dependent on weather that can be inconsistent. The outdoor ice rink would also be used for ice skating and a future curling league.

“Curling is a fun, incredibly social game. It doesn’t matter what your age or physical ability is. You play within your skill level, which makes it a ton of fun and it would be a whole new thing that this town just doesn’t have. All of it, the skating, the hockey, the curling, the figure skating, all of it is just something we don’t have at all,” said Burwell.

Volunteers are hoping to add something else for locals to do here in the winter months and are enthusiastic and driven to give the area another option for winter activities.

“Everybody knows how little there is to do in Elko in the dead of winter, and a lot of the great infrastructure that this town has for recreation isn’t really usable in the winter. This is absolutely a need that we need to fill,” said Burwell. “I love this town and this is the only thing that’s missing and when I’m done, it won’t be missing.”

Elko Hockey Association member Colby Corbitt agrees.

“If we can get it done we would have a community ice skating rink, hockey rink, and a place for a curling league that the entire community would be able to utilize,” he said.

The Igloo has always been nonprofit with no paid employees. It runs entirely from user fees and private donations. In recent months individuals and local businesses have stepped up to donate time, money, services and materials. The ice rink project is about half way done and also includes a solid surface parking lot required to meet city code.

So far organizers have acquired some big ticket items like the Zamboni, and a set of boards and glass.

Several local businesses have stepped up with donations. Elko Overhead Door donated a roll-up door for the future Zamboni shed, United Rentals is donating equipment for dirt work, and RAM is committed to donating rubber for walkways, along with other local businesses that have made similar contributions.

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“We are basically down to the refrigeration part and the lights and we’re going to build a shade system,” said Burwell.

The power supply from the building is already set up for a big refrigeration unit. They now plan to build a big chiller with a large piping system that will be enclosed in a sand bed underneath the rink to refrigerate the fluid that keeps the ice frozen.

Longtime Igloo board member and engineer Mike Shanks has designed a fabric shading system that hangs from cables, which can be angled to keep the sun off the ice during daylight hours and drawn back at night. The shade system is significant for saving energy — and in turn money — to keep the ice frozen.

“We think we can get this rink up and running and open up more recreation opportunities,” said Shanks. “It’s a good way to get outside and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Organizers are ready to move on with the construction phase of the project and have the rink open for at least partial use next winter.

“Essentially what we’re after, if we had $150,000 between now and fall, basically we would be ready to put this thing into service. So we’re fundrasing, we’re asking for donations, we’re doing a lot of different things,” said Burwell. “There’s been lots of people who’ve come forward, and have jumped on with us. I’m not concerned at all if this will happen; it’s not if, it’s when.”

Anyone interested in donating time, money, services or materials to the Igloo Ice Rink Project can call Burwell at 340-8806.

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