PROVO -- Owners of the new Peaks Ice Arena are hoping to avoid a cold reception for their grand opening celebrations, which begin Wednesday and run through this weekend.
"There's a lot of people in the (Utah) valley that still aren't even aware that we're here," Max Rabner, a part-owner of Seven Peaks Management, said of the $12.4 million arena. "They're not even aware that Provo's part of the Olympics."Indeed, the 110,000-square-foot Peaks facility -- the largest ice arena in the state -- will host most women's ice hockey contests during the 2002 Winter Games. Although the arena has been open since last November, only recently has its construction been completed, prompting city officials, police officers and Peaks personnel to converge there Tuesday evening for a last-minute dress rehearsal.
With Wednesday's official grand opening, the general public is invited to come to the ice arena from 6:30 p.m. for free open skating, fireworks and demonstrations about figure skating, ice hockey or speed skating.
Looking to gain publicity momentum for the 2002 Winter Games as well as test its potential to host an Olympics venue, the Peaks Ice Arena will also host games Friday between two of the top women's hockey squads in the world.
The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and the University of Calgary Oval Extremes -- whose teams combine for nine Olympic players -- will square off at 8 p.m. Friday and again at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Peaks Ice Arena.
"This is our first opportunity to introduce hockey to the community," said Leland Gamette, Provo's director of economic development.
Rabner hopes all the hockey hype isn't short-lived. He says the Peaks Ice Arena, which has two ice rinks, already hosts a variety of hockey club games, figure skating and open skating sessions. Still, Rabner knows all too well which key constituency his arena must attract, the rock upon which the Peaks must build its future: young kids.
"There's not a lot for youth to do if you don't play indoor basketball or ski," Rabner said. "We need to have more sports opportunities for kids who don't fit the mold of a basketball player or skier. . . . Skating doesn't have a tradition here yet. There are people who've tried it, but it's not part of the mainstream yet."
To help facilitate promoting ice-skating based sports among those vital demographics, Seven Peaks is starting a program called "Kids on Ice" at public schools in Provo and Orem. The marketing campaign will allow local elementary school students to take three-hour field trips to the Peaks Ice Arena beginning the second week of October. The trip, which will cost about $3 per student, includes a free pass to the Peaks for each student at a future date.
Wednesday's grand opening will feature speeches from Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC), and Provo Mayor Lewis Billings, chairman of the Ice Sheet Authority.
The Wednesday event is free, but all attendees must have a ticket. Tickets can be picked up at any branch of Far West Bank or Bank of American Fork. Tickets are also available at Provo Parks and Recreation, at 351 W. Center St.
Tickets for the weekend games between the Bulldogs and the Oval Extreme are $5 each or $4 per person for families of five or more and can also be purchased at any Far West Bank or Bank of American Fork in Utah County. For more information, call 852-7100.
The Peaks Ice Arena is located at 100 N. Seven Peaks Blvd., Provo.