Mounds of dirt sit in the space that will be used by thousands of kids on ice skates.
The ground-level concession stand and skate shop have exposed beams but will soon be bustling with families. And the expansive upstairs lobby is where countless parents will watch their children.
The Great Park Ice skating facility is a construction site, but it’s not difficult to envision that it might someday help produce the next locally trained NHL player or Olympic figure skater.
“I don’t think it’s that far off,” said Art Trottier, vice president of the Ducks’ RINKS program that has grown hockey at the grassroots level through the development of local ice rinks.
The $104-million, four-rink venue in Irvine is set to open in December as the area’s crown jewel, a modern arena for the south Orange County community and beyond, as well as a state-of-the-art practice hub for the Ducks. At 280,000-square feet, it will be the largest skating complex in California.
The centerpiece is FivePoint Arena, with seating for 2,500 people and a scoreboard, concession stand and press box. The upstairs lobby runs the length of all four rinks allowing spectators to look down on the action, and it will contain a restaurant.
It will be a training ground for U.S. Figure Skating and can also be used for speed skating, sled hockey and curling. Trottier said it fulfills the vision of Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli, who paid for the project and have a 30-year lease on the land.
“This was always on their mind since they bought the team [in 2005],” Trottier said. “It’s been phenomenal to work with them. They have that mindset, ‘Let’s build the sport.’”
Hockey has grown immensely locally over the past decade, but there hasn’t been a centralized multiple-purpose facility like this. Todd Marchant, director of player development for the Ducks, has two sons and two daughters who have all participated in the Junior Ducks and Lady Ducks youth programs.
“It seemed like we’d all be carting off to different rinks” in Yorba Linda, Lakewood and Anaheim, Marchant said. “And now, to have it all in one place is huge.
“My only wish is that the facility would have opened 10 years ago.”
Trottier said the organization looked at modern NHL practice facilities and arenas of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings as a reference point for design. Each rink has at least six locker rooms. There will be a team store next to the skate shop. The parking lot will house 1,000 spaces.
The figure skating wing includes a sauna, ballet room, dance room, recovery room and music room.“They’re bringing in a grand piano,” Trottier said.
Figure skaters will begin using the rinks after the New Year to train for events such as the ISU Four Continents championship at Honda Center in February.
New, updated practice digs can be a selling point for NHL teams to lure players. The Kings recently renovated their El Segundo complex to include a new locker room, an upstairs gym and downstairs players lounge area. They converted the former Lakers practice court into a dry land practice shooting area that will be open to the public in October, a team official said.
At Great Park, the Ducks will have their own dedicated locker room, replete with a weight room, kitchen, hot and cold Jacuzzis and sauna. There are upstairs offices and conference rooms for staff. It’s not expected to be the Ducks’ everyday practice venue right away but could evolve into that, instead of Anaheim Ice, given that many Ducks players live around the area.
Marchant, a member of the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup championship team, said a top-rate rink can be integral to an NHL team.
“You want to be able to have the things you need to give yourself the best chance for success,” Marchant said. “If that means having the right facilities, the amenities that you might need, and to be able to partner that with the youth program, it’s a win-win situation.”
Anaheim Ice, designed by noted architect Frank Gehry, has a whimsically curved roofline but is somewhat impractical in size and has just two rinks. The Great Park building doesn’t have the quirky Gehry touch, although the blue-colored front facade is designed as a rolling ocean wave.
Metaphorically, it’s the wave of the future.