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Possible junior A hockey program worries teen ice arena users

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Catherine Idzerda
Marcia Nelesen
Saturday, March 7, 2009
— At 8:15 p.m. Friday the parking lot outside the Janesville Ice Skating Center was suspiciously empty.

Inside, it was another story. Swarms of teens moved on and off the ice, in and out of the warming room and back and forth from the concessions stand.

They greeted each other with a cheerful abruptness, holding staccato conversations that often ended with laughter. Then the swarm would reform and buzz off to its next destination.

It was a typical Friday night, according to Bonnie Davis, Janesville’s recreation director.

The popularity of weekend open skate at the Janesville Ice Skating Center has increased over the last several years, and those skaters would be affected if a junior A hockey team locates here.

The team would play its games on Friday and Saturday nights, alternating between away games and home games. Open skate, which is scheduled September through March, could still be held on nights the team has away games.

Davis supports the hockey team as being another entertainment option for the community and a way to bring something else downtown. But she is concerned about the hundreds of kids who would be displaced.

Attendance on a recent Friday night—the most popular night of the weekend—was 400. Attendance fluctuates depending on the month, but the number of teen skaters on Friday nights ranges from 250 to 300, Davis said.

Teens from area middle and high schools and some from Milton come to the center to skate and socialize. Some pay the $4 entry fee just to hang out in the bleachers and talk to each other.

The skaters have mixed feelings about losing Friday night skate—even if it was just every other week.

Alance Schmidt, 14, from Marshall Middle School plays hockey with the Janesville Jay Hawks. He uses Friday night skating to warm up for his games during the week, and to socialize.

What would he do without the Friday night skate?

“I don’t know, I’d probably watch the hockey game,” Schmidt said.

Jacob Sennett, 15, from Craig High School said he would be “very angry” if Friday night skate went away.

“There’s not really anything else to do,” he said.

Where else do they like to hang out? Mostly The Janesville Mall and The Pipe, an indoor skate park. But teens wouldn’t be able to hang out at the mall for too long before they’d be thrown out, Sennett said.

Jessica Barrett, 14, from Parker High School said she’d be “very disappointed” if some of the Friday night skates were eliminated.

Weekend open skate starts at 5:45 p.m. with family skate, which draws 90 to 150 people. Teens—most ages 11 to 15—skate from 8 to 10 p.m. On Friday, open hockey follows until midnight and attracts between 25 to 30 skaters. Open hockey is not held on Saturdays. Birthday parties are held both nights.

The May 2006 closing of the Skatin’ Place roller rink on Pontiac Drive could be one reason for the increase in attendance, Davis said.

Teen attendance at open skate drops on nights the city holds rec nights in the middle schools. On a recent Friday, all three middle schools were hosting rec nights, drawing about 1,000 kids. Open skate attendance that night was only 50.

Scheduling rec nights when the hockey team has home games would give kids another option, but, Davis said, “We have issues now scheduling rec nights. Maybe when the schools open up their new facilities, that would assist us.”

The school district and the city have mutual-use agreements, the schools schedule their events first, Davis said.

It all tells Davis that kids are looking for something to do on weekend nights.

“This situation might prompt something that will be really good for kids,” Davis said. “I do have some ideas.”

Last updated: 9:56 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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