Members of the Bonneville Lakers hockey team were so eager to see the area's new Olympic ice rink that they volunteered as ushers at the opening ceremonies Saturday.
"We're excited. We love it," said Gib Reimschussel, who plays defense for the team that finished third in the state last season despite difficulties scheduling practice time.Before Saturday, there were only two indoor ice rinks in the area - in Bountiful and in Cottonwood Heights. That meant the team sometimes went as long as a month between practices.
Even during hockey season, they were able to practice only once a week - at 10:45 p.m. on a school night. They took to working out on a pond that had to be shoveled free of snow every time they wanted to skate.
"That was a lot of work," said Curt Connelly, who plays center and right wing. "We didn't have very much ice time, and practice makes perfect."
There should be plenty of time available on the $6.2 million ice sheet next to the Dee Events Center for the 16-year-old sophomore and teammates at Bonneville High School to perfect their hockey game.
They'll have a lot of company on the ice, though, judging from the turnout at the ceremonies Saturday afternoon. More than 1,000 people came to watch the ceremonies - and to try out the ice.
The day's first skaters were members of the Wasatch Junior Figure Skaters Club, the Mites hockey team and the Northern Utah Speed Skaters. Then came speakers, introduced by 1980 Olympic silver medalist Linda Fratianne.
That's not what Jared Layton, 13, and Tim Beers, 14, came to see. The Roy Junior High eighth-graders were there to participate in the free public skating that followed.
Layton and Beers are avid in-line roller skaters, so they expected to be pretty good on the ice even though they've only skated a couple of times before, on a frozen pond.
"If it's like Rollerblading, I'll do good. If it's not . . . pavement is just as hard as ice," Beers said. He and Layton said they plan to add ice hockey to the list of team sports they play.
Megan and Michael Lee of Huntsville, Weber County, hope to add to their growing trophy collection. Megan, "7 going on 8 years old," is a figure skater, and Michael, 6, plays ice hockey.
"The best thing I like, is, I like to do twirls," Megan said. She started skating when she was 5 and said she never gets dizzy spinning on the ice.
Rhonda Lee said her children usually skate on a town park that's flooded with water to make ice in the winter. She said she'll be bringing them back often to the Ogden ice sheet.
That's exactly what state and local officials want to hear. Officially dubbed "The Ice Sheet," it was built with $3.25 million in state funds from the Utah Sports Authority, and the rest was raised locally.
Weber County contributed $2 million toward the ice sheet's cost, while the remaining $1 million was raised from various private donors. The facility is being operated by Weber County.
The ice sheet is the second state-funded Olympic facility to open. Ski jumps at the Utah Winter Sports Park at Bear Hollow near Park City are already in their second season of operation.
Utah taxpayers are spending $59 million to build winter-sports facilities that would be used for Olympic competition if Salt Lake City hosts the 2002 Winter Games.
The ice sheet in Ogden would be used for practice and preliminary competition among ice skaters and hockey teams if Salt Lake City is chosen by the International Olympic Committee next year to host the Winter Games.
On Sunday, the grand opening was scheduled to continue at the ice sheet with a show of skating stars including Fratianne, 1984 gold medalist Scott Hamilton and current U.S. pairs champions Todd Sands and Jennifer Moreno.