If you build it, they will come

Volunteers continue improvements on the Lewistown ice rink
By 
Katherine Sears
Managing Editor
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
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Bill Berg, left, and Ryan Durbin lend their craftsman skills to the installation of new boards on the ice rink last week. The Lewistown Ice Skating Association purchased new boards recently to replace the old wooden boards that have enclosed the rink for the past 10 years.

Photos by Katherine Sears

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Lewistown Ice Skating Association President Bruce Marsden reflects on ice rink improvements over the past 10 years inside the rink building last week. New boards are the latest upgrade to the rink, which is owned by the city, but maintained by the association.

What started as a flooded depression in Frank Day Park has grown into much more, all thanks to the work of volunteers on a mission to build an ice skating rink. Little did they know they weren’t just building a rink, but a community of people dedicated to improving skating in the area.  

“Make and maintain ice and infrastructure to improve ice skating in Central Montana,” said Bruce Marsden, president of the Lewistown Ice Skating Association. “That’s our mission.”

In fulfilling that mission, the group began building an ice rink in 2009 in cooperation with the City of Lewistown, and has continued to make big improvements ever since. A Zamboni was purchased, boards were put up, concrete was poured, and refrigeration was installed to keep ice longer.

“When they first got permission to build the rink, it was still just a low spot in the park they would flood,” said Marsden. “Since it’s so close to the creek, the water table was too high and it didn’t freeze well. We used to have to put up traffic cones and skate around them.”

Refrigeration to keep the ice more consistently mostly solved that problem, so the group recently set their sights on another goal: new boards.  

“Getting new boards has been a goal for a number of years now,” said Marsden.

The wooden boards that have enclosed the rink for over 10 years, and a rink in Bozeman for nearly 15 years before that, are being replaced with an all-weather UV resistant fiberglass product. The old wooden boards will be transported to Sidney to live out the rest of their useable life.

“The old boards served a great purpose for us for several years, but they were showing their age and use,” said Derek Manseau, who has been involved with the association since 2011. “The sturdiness and longevity of the new boards will serve this purpose a lot better.”

The frame of the new boards is made of galvanized steel, which is much superior to the wood frame it has replaced. With the frame covered in the white fiberglass faces, the improvement is also safer and more suitable for the players.

“Now we won’t be getting splinters when we’re crawling over the boards going in and out of the game,” said Marsden.

To fund the new boards, the association spent the past year-and-a-half fundraising, and has been selling signs for the boards inside the rink. Money has also been raised through the adult and youth hockey programs, along with fees collected from annual tournaments.

“We host rec level and novice tournaments every year,” said Marsden. “The money raised from those goes right back into the rink.”

After shopping around, the association was able to purchase the boards from an Olympic size rink in Minnesota at less than a third of what brand new boards would cost.

“Timing was key,” said Manseau. “When we were able to find a good used set of boards, we had all our ducks in a row ready to buy them.”

The Lewistown rink is American size (85 by 200 feet) which is slightly smaller than the Olympic size rink. Manseau said the group had to custom fabricate some sections due to the size difference, which was no issue for the multi-skilled volunteers who have built the rink to what it is today.

“We have so many dedicated volunteers who know what they’re doing,” said Marsden. “Derek did all the research, ordering, and fabricating material for the rink and Zamboni gate.”

Association volunteers also added new player boxes to the south side of the rink this year, which included pouring concrete and building the boxes from the new board materials.

“We have guys from Wickens Construction and HCR that all bring a set of skills and expertise,” said Marsden. “People like that are so invaluable.”

The group hopes to have all the new boards installed by Thanksgiving weekend, when they will begin making ice for the winter season, if the weather cooperates. The ice and new boards should be in place and ready to go for the Lewistown Open Air Classic, which is scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 7-9, 2022.

When the boards are done, the group will set their sights on a new goal, which might include a roof to prevent the sun from melting certain spots on the ice.

“We’ll enjoy the boards for a year or two, then start thinking about how we raise money for a roof,” said Marsden. “It’s a work in progress, but it’s always going to be a work in progress.”

Buy a board and support the rink

The ice skating group is still raising money to pay for the new boards. If you would like to “buy a board” and put your sign on the rink, contact Scott Kirsch at 406.538.2454

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