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So cool it's actually frozen

Greg Meakin tours his place of dreams — the Bremerton Ice Arena. The Canadian-born man already has a wait list of 400 people interested in joining leagues and skating on the new rink when it opens May 1. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Greg Meakin tours his place of dreams — the Bremerton Ice Arena. The Canadian-born man already has a wait list of 400 people interested in joining leagues and skating on the new rink when it opens May 1.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

Tick, tick, tick go the seconds on the clock.

Inch by inch, steal beam by steal beam, layer of concrete by layer of concrete, the “coolest” thing in town rises from the ground.

With opening day set for May 1, Greg Meakin, Bremerton Ice Arena’s managing director, cannot contain his excitement.

He knows recreation hangouts in Bremerton are in short supply.

“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t get thanked by a handful of people. On the street, by e-mail; we can’t go to Costco wearing a Bremerton Ice Arena jacket without getting complimented. It’s like being a rock star.”

Meakin apologizes for the cliche, but he just can’t wipe the smile from his lips.

He is constructing the first permanent chunk of skating ice in the history of Kitsap County. It will be the first with hockey leagues for kids and adults, and the first in the state with an overhanging, Key Arena-style scoreboard.

And one of the few with a fireplace.

“Let me put it this way,” he says with a calm nod. “There is a theme in this organization. We love to do firsts.”

He’s got rooms for birthday parties, and rubber flooring around the ice, so people don’t have to unlace their skates to walk around in the facility.

But Meakin doesn’t have to remind the local kids how hot the arcade room will be next to the cool, cool ice.

Leave that to his 12-year-old son, Carson.

“Because we have the arcade, the food court and plenty of rentals, I think there will be a lot of kids going there just to have fun,” he said. “I have this one friend Michael who asks me every day when it is going to be finished.”

Carson can’t wait to get on the ice to play hockey in the youth league. He has been working with his dad’s stick and his in-line skates at home.

“We’ve got this little rubber squeaky toy for our dog that makes a pretty good street puck and it doesn’t hurt if you hit anybody with it,” he said.

Carson said the recreation opportunities in Bremerton are horrible. Because he cannot rollerblade downtown anywhere, he and his friends are usually confined to the streets of their neighborhood. The movie theaters in town are too packed. The skate parks are too far away. There’s only Skateland and the Vertical World for alternative exercise.

Currently, more than 50 Kitsap families commute across the water to ice arenas in Seattle or Tacoma, Meakin said.

Many parents wake up and drive an hour each way a few days a week to get their kids to the rink. They are the hockey dads and the ice ballerina moms — the ones who would do anything for their kids, but find the commute exhausting.

“Staying awake for the drive is the hardest part,” said Pat Huston, who drives her 15-year-old daughter Kelley 49 miles from Silverdale to Spanaway.

Although Kelley would love to go seven days a week, she and her mom usually opt for three to four.

“During the summer I will get up at 4 a.m., leave the house by 5, get to the rink by 6 and then come back to Bremerton to work by 7,” Pat Hudson said.

Many times Kelly does her homework in the car by flashlight because the commute is so long.

“My teachers get used to the sloppy handwriting,” she said.

While Kelley is in the car on her way to the rink — with visions of figure skating stuck in her head — another family on the other side of town is starting their own great journey.

Troy Hudkins is the father of six hockey players. He’s a native of Fort McMurray, Alberta, where it’s common to put a kid in a pair of skates as soon as he starts to walk.

“It’s a way of life,” he said. “When the ice freezes on the road the kids are all out there with their sticks.”

His town was about the size of Bremerton, but they had three rinks and a hockey league of 2,200 kids.

These days, Hudkins drives an hour each way to a Tacoma rink for his sons Patrick’s and Cassidy’s hockey practice. Patrick is a 19-year-old B-league hockey star.

Hudkins calls the drive “taxing,” and he sometimes goes to sleep at 7 p.m. at night because he is so tired.

In reality, not having time for chores or dishes isn’t too bad, he jokes.

“Access is the best part (of the new arena),” he said. “Easy access. No travelling for practice. A brand new facility is going to be awesome. Two of my sons are going to get back into hockey because the rink is closer,” he said.

Currently, Meakin said he already has a waiting list of over 400 for his Bremerton Amateur Hockey Association (BAHA) youth programs and Bremerton Adult Hockey League (BAHL).

Meakin is cracking out the final price estimates.

“The primary objective is ensuring all ice sports programs are affordable to all both in overall cost and and convenience of repayment,” Meakin said.

Meakin is targeting a monthly cost of about $60 or less for youth hockey enrollment.

Actual program details and costs will be announced by the end of February.

Until then, the ice dream continues to melt into reality.

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