Frontier Ice Arena a new hot spot

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Frontier Ice Arena is hard to find.

There used to be a sign on West Seltice Way that at least could aim you down the side road where this gorgeous facility waits, almost hidden at the bottom of a hill.

But even the sign is gone now, due to various construction projects.

Actually, it’s a surprise that Vince Hughes (or another member of his family) isn’t out on Seltice waving a hockey stick to help newcomers find the place.

We’re kidding about that, since Hughes — the general manager, Zamboni driver and chief bottle washer — wouldn’t have five minutes to spare. Not on a busy day, and at Frontier, that’s pretty much every day.

On Thursday afternoon, as his 20-year-old daughter, Lina, packed up hoodies to go on sale at this weekend’s Idaho State High School Tournament, Hughes was discussing schedules, funding and all sorts of business issues, when, all of a sudden …

He realized that he needed to slick up the ice once again for the afternoon figure skaters.

BACK ON the Zamboni for the boss.

“We’ve got just about everything here that you can do on ice,” Hughes said, pointing out markings for curling matches. “Curling interest has picked up since the U.S. men won a gold medal (at the Winter Olympics).”

Of course there’s hockey, for all ages and skill levels.

Hughes says the most fun is watching the Mites, kids barely old enough to skate, because their parents and grandparents show up to cheer on the little ones.

It’s just a hoot, apparently.

On the other hand, Frontier is the “home rink” for Tyler Johnson — a high-flying center for the Stanley Cup hopeful Tampa Bay Lightning. Johnson played youth hockey here.

Oh, and there’s a Legends Game in the summer, featuring Wayne Gretzky. “The Great One” and his sons run a serious hockey camp at the arena in July.

Apparently, plenty of people are finding this place — sign or no sign.

And make no mistake, it’s a first-class venue, even though Hughes and his army of friends and volunteers dream of adding a second full-size ice sheet.

IRONICALLY, plans call for that second rink to sit on the empty ground where Frontier’s predecessor — the old KYRO arena — collapsed during a snowstorm in December 2008.

“We could see the pressure was cracking it, so no one was in the building,” Hughes said. “We’d done so much work on it, from inheriting a place that was open to the outdoors to getting it enclosed.

“When we realized it was a complete loss — and this was right at the time of financial crisis in the country — we were disappointed, but right away we started thinking about a new and better facility.”

Mission accomplished.

Building the current Frontier facility today would cost about $5 million, but Hughes’ crew spent far less by working hard and finding key pieces — like the ice chiller — for sale second-hand.

THE NEW venue opened in 2012, and the place is a palace.

Hughes loves the fact that new generations are finding the urge to skate, not to mention parents who come to see their kids and think, “That would be fun.”

Ah, possible patrons for the free-skate session.

The man who never slows down is pleased, but not content.

Never.

So if you know a sponsor or sugar daddy who’d like to donate that second ice sheet …

“We actually need it now,” Hughes said. “We’ve got practices here at 5:30 in the morning and adult leagues that run ‘til midnight.”

He’d be happy to say more, but hey …

The ice needs to be glazed again.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Facebook: BrandNewDayCDAPress.

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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