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Ice, ice baby

Gumbert facility set to open up new temporary ice skating rink in November

Jared Greenspan

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Construction is underway on a temporary, regulation-sized ice rink at Gumbert Park. The rink, slated to be in operation from November through February, aims to make hockey more convenient and available for local teams and residents.

One of the main problems plaguing local ice hockey teams in past seasons has been the lack of ice time. According to junior Maddie Katz, a member of the girls varsity team at WHS, the new rink will largely solve this problem.

“Last year, at our home rink, Warinanco, the ice time would be split between multiple teams from different towns, preventing us from getting an optimal amount of practice time,” Katz said. “Now we’ll have a greater opportunity for ice practices.”

Both the girls and boys varsity teams are scheduled to use the Gumbert facility multiple times a week for practice. Beyond added ice time, it also provides for a convenient location, greatly reducing travel time.

“Unlike other sports that utilize the high school gym or walk to Kehler, the hockey teams have had to travel a half hour just to get to practice,” explained senior Alex Park, who plays on the boys varsity team. “We are also contending with poor driving conditions and snowy roads as a winter sport, so lessening the travel time makes for an easier, safer commute.”

Katz also said that the reduction of travel time stands to benefit players in other areas, such as allowing more time for school work.

In addition to serving the WHS hockey teams, the skating center also stands to help augment interest in hockey throughout the community. According to boys varsity coach Joseph Bertucci, the rink aptly meets the needs of Westfield’s expanding hockey program.

“The sport is growing, and this addition will continue to give new opportunities to younger kids,” Bertucci said. “It will bring a lot of excitement for the sport to our community.”

The Gumbert facility intends to operate several programs designed to stimulate local hockey. The initial project proposal lists learn to skate programs, adult open hockey, youth open hockey, and family free skate sessions as possibilities. Hours will likewise be allocated for public skating.

“We just hope that the rink makes more and more kids try and enjoy hockey, because it is such a fun sport to play,” said Park, who plans on running several community-friendly events at the venue with his teammates throughout the winter.

To ensure that the facility is well maintained, Union Sports Arena, led by owner Ken Anderson, will take the initiative to implement temporary sidewalks, perform snow removal, and restore the property to its pristine condition upon the lease termination.

Despite the rink’s immense benefits, there are still some lingering concerns. Abnormally warm temperatures could potentially create soft ice, generating hazardous conditions for skaters. In addition, noise caused by the site’s chiller could pose problems for residents of the nearby apartment complex.

For girls varsity coach Matt Gualtieri, the contrast between benefits and drawbacks is all just a part of the process. “There are a lot of unknowns with a first-time project like this,” explained Gualtieri. “While there may be a few surprises or bumps in the road along the way, I don’t foresee too many problems.”

Park remains confident that the benefits of the Gumbert rink will far outweigh the drawbacks. Said Park: “It is one of the best things that has happened to the Westfield hockey program in a long time.”

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