Fairground ice rink drawing central Indiana skaters

By Ellie Price
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The new Youth Arena – part of a $63 million renovation to the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum – is now open and attracting everyone from hockey players and figure skaters, to recreational athletes from around Indianapolis.

The new Youth Arena is part of the $63 million renovation to the Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

The new Youth Arena is part of the $63 million renovation to the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

The ice rink will be open for skaters from October to May. The Fair Commission will also use the space to host other events throughout that season and the ice rink won’t be accessible during that time.

Andy Klotz, publicity and media relations director for the Indiana State Fair Commission, said turnout has been “light” for the rink’s first week.

“But that’s because of the time of year,” Klotz said. “When it’s still 75 degrees out, people just aren’t thinking about skating a whole lot.”

Hundreds of people attended the Youth Arena’s Oct. 5 grand opening, Klotz said, which included free admission and free skate rental. He expects an influx of skaters during the season because there aren’t many other rinks available to the public in the Indianapolis area.

The Youth Arena offers daily public sessions and rents ice time to youth hockey leagues and figure skating clubs.

A downtown Indianapolis dual ice rink at Pan Am Plaza, formerly known as the Indiana/World Skating Academy, will primarily serve as the training facility for the Indiana Ice hockey team. The newly titled Pan Am Pavilion will add public skating sessions later this year, however.

Carrie Stadtmiller, skate shop manager, fits a young skater for new skates. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

Carrie Stadtmiller, skate shop manager, fits a young skater for new skates. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

“With the closing of one of the rinks downtown at the Pan Am Pavilion, the fairgrounds looked at it as an opportunity to go ahead and build this new facility,” said Carrie Stadtmiller, skate shop manager.

The Indiana Ice used to play at the Coliseum until the building closed for renovations last October. The team moved to the downtown rink and, Klotz said, team officials have indicated they don’t plan to return to the fairgrounds.

Klotz said the Youth Arena “functions fine” but will be “even better once the Coliseum renovation is complete” in the summer of 2014.

The Youth Arena is connected to the Coliseum by a shared wall. The skate shop will be moved from a small room on the south side of the arena to the larger Coliseum. Athletes will be able to access permanent locker rooms.

John Katterjohn, president of the Winter Club of Indianapolis, said the figure skating group was excited to return to the fairgrounds. The skating club started 73 years ago at the Coliseum. But when the Coliseum and downtown rinks closed for renovations, skaters had to train in Carmel and Fishers.

“Having a home rink means a lot,” Katterjohn said. “Of course this facility is known for having the best ice in town and the friendliest people, I might say.”

Skaters practice on a public session at the Youth Arena. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

Skaters practice on a public session at the Youth Arena. Photo by Ellie Price, TheStatehouseFile.com

Tim Lyons, a recreational skater from Indianapolis, used to skate at the downtown rinks. But after Pan Am Plaza closed, he went to Carmel to skate a few times a month. Now, he plans to skate at the Youth Arena since it’s closer.

“I came here for about three days to skate (this week) and fell in love with it,” Lyons said.

The Fair Commission hopes others will as well, making it a go-to destination.

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