Douglas ice hockey has never had its own indoor rink. The IceCats originally had an outdoor rink, and currently rent indoor space at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds.
“Honestly, I’ve been waiting for 20 years for a hockey rink,” Douglas Youth Hockey Association President Aundy Luckenbihl said.
Luckenbihl explained her idea for a new rink, adjacent to Bartling Park, to the Converse County Commission last week. The facility will cost about $1 million, and include an outdoor rink in addition to the indoor facility. Weather permitting, the two rink set-up would be valuable when hosting tournaments and renting ice time to other teams. Douglas Youth Hockey has already raised more than $110,000 for the new rink.
A new indoor hockey rink would bring a host of benefits to the IceCats, a program that had 123 skaters during the 2018-19 season. They’d be able to get on the ice sooner at the new facility. The WSF rink can’t be ready until November, a month after the start of the season.
“It will be easier on the kids and the parents because we won’t have to put our rink up and tear it down every year,” Luckenbihl explained.
Luckenbihl requested $250,000 from the county’s economic development fund, citing the positive economic impact that youth hockey has for Douglas.
According to Luckenbihl’s calculations, the 2018-19 hockey season brought in over $141,000, at a bare minimum, to the city. Families pay for hotel rooms, eat out and fuel up when they come to Douglas, and over the course of a season, all of that spending adds up.
With a new rink, Douglas could host more tournaments earlier in the season, which would bring in even more revenue for the city, Luckenbihl said.
Converse County Commissioner Jim Willox wasn’t opposed to helping the IceCats build a new home, but said the project might not fit the definition of economic development, and might not be the best use of the county’s economic development account.
“I see it as economic development in the long term,” Converse County Clerk Lucile Taylor said. “It brings in people to the community.”
The commissioners said they like the idea of a new hockey rink.
Converse County Commissioner Mike Colling said the rink is “a worthwhile project,” but added he would like to see a financial commitment from the city.
“We see a pretty large interest in hockey in Wyoming for whatever reason,” Converse County Commission Chairman Robert Short said. “(But) if we were going to commit, I’d like to know there’s other commitments.”