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Pa. ice rink skating along a year later

January 30, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The future for the Doris I. Billow Ice Arena lies with people who can't ice skate.

The rink on Pa. 16 west of Waynesboro, is celebrating its first anniversary this month and those running it are looking at its financial health, the programs it offers and those it hopes to offer. Growth, they said, has been slow, but constant.

The rink paid its bills and made payments on its $1.4 million loan through $600,000 in pledged donations made during its 1997 kick-off fund drive, said Carol Henicle, president of Cumberland Valley on Ice, the board of directors that built and oversees the rink.

A constant flow of new skaters is needed if the rink is to become self-supporting in three years, Henicle said.

It will use up about $100,000 of the remaining $270,000 in pledged donations in 1999.

"It was planned this way," Henicle said. "The pledges will keep the rink going until it can support itself. It takes a while to build up. There were only so many people who knew how to skate at first. Now we have to get the non-skaters to come in. That's where our future is."

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Activity over the summer was slower than anticipated because of the lack of programs. The rink also had problems keeping managers. Janee Meyers, the current executive director, was a hired in June, the fourth person to hold the post since August 1997.

Henicle said much rests on Meyers' ability to make things work. "She's been very good so far. She's devoted to the job and the area."

Meyers keeps the rink open from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The early hours are the slowest, she said.

The rink has four successful adult and four youth hockey leagues, the latter of which is coached by volunteer dads. Another first-year success is the learn-to-skate program with more than 200 students taking lessons in five classes.

The figure skating club could be the rink's route to the Olympics, Meyers said. "We could have an Olympic skater in nine or 10 years. At the level we're at right now it's just exciting for them (students) to make a jump on skates."

A curling league is also seeking new members. It plays on Tuesdays following the recreational skating schedule which ends at 8:30 p.m., said Nancy Stein, club coordinator. "It takes a half-hour for the Zamboni to smooth out the ice for us. The recreational skaters really chew it up," she said.

Curling is like a cross between bowling and shuffleboard.

Meyers said she's busy recruiting outside groups - churches, clubs, schools and colleges, home-schooling families that lack regular physical education plus companies and corporations to add to the 20 regular groups that rent ice time now. More private gatherings, like birthday parties are being scheduled.

In December, Grove Worldwide brought 1,500 employees and their families to the rink for the annual employees' children's Christmas party.

Groups pay $160 to rent the ice for an hour. Skate rental is $2.25.

Meyers credits community support for the rink's first-year success. "Everybody is excited about this arena. We're trying to make it into the place where people's ice-skating dreams come true."

The $23 million rink opened unofficially on Dec. 19, 1997. It's formal opening and open house was held Jan. 28, 1998, featuring Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen.

The rink is named for Doris I. Billow, a Waynesboro area school teacher who died in 1992 and left $500,000 in her will as seed money for an ice rink. The state put up $250,000 and the rest of the money to build and equip the $3 million facility came from donations and local bank loans.

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