Ice arena receives deed to future location after 10 years of effort
POLSON — The Mission Valley Ice Arena Association (MVIAA) recently announced a major development in the progress of creating a skating rink: the acquisition of a deed that will finally make the ice arena a reality.
The idea of a local ice arena got its start in 2013 when a community survey conducted by the Greater Polson Community Foundation revealed an ice rink as a top desire among residents. The city commission called community members together to discuss the likelihood of such a project. Following the meeting a few members of the public sat down and formed a non-profit board that would bring the goal to fruition. Four of those members have been on the diverse board of nine ever since, including the Chair, Hilary Lozar.
Lozar took an interest in the project years ago after becoming involved in a hockey team with some coworkers from Ronan Elementary. “I’d never participated in such an addicting activity. It was unbelievably fun,” she commented. After recruiting her husband and father-in-law to play hockey as well, their years of carpooling to Missoula and back made her especially interested when the city commission meeting was called. Since she and the others formed the original board of the MVIAA, Lozar said they’ve gotten nothing but great support from community members since. She mentioned the closest the organization’s ever had to a naysayer was an individual at the original meeting asking what the possibility of an ice rink would cost taxpayers, and so Lozar vowed then and there that the project would cost taxpayers nothing, even after it’s up and running.
The last nine and a half years of the project have been a lot of hurry up and wait, Lozar commented, but with the lot deed now in hand the MVIAA is ready to power through their last phase of fundraising and finally break ground on the ice arena. About 80% of the way through fundraising with $4 million gained, the organization needs about $1 million more to ensure they have enough to cover the costs of construction, which may have increased due to inflation since their last bid.
For their part, Lozar said, the MVIAA has been participating and helping out in the community through local events, even outside of fundraising. Last year saw their participation in Lights Under the Big Sky, as well as providing a fun dunk tank for the kids at the Cherry Festival.
As for raising the funds they need, the MVIAA has held a variety of fundraisers from summer street hockey to broom ball at Riverside Park. They’re now looking for more creative ways to finish out the last big fundraising push and Lozar said people can look forward to the opportunity to buy a square foot of ice on the arena, calendar sales and photo shoots, and even some future auctions. One upcoming plan community members can look forward to is a Zoomba dance fundraiser provided by a local community member sometime in late May or early June of this year.
The 17,000 square foot year-round ice arena will be built on the farthest west end of the soccer complex, two full lots to the west of the Aquatics Center. This will make for an extensive sports area in town with partnerships between the entities planned for the formation of a shared parking lot and opportunities created for large sporting events. Additionally, Lozar said the city is considering extending the road, which is currently a dead end, into a throughway to connect it to the rest of Polson, encouraging more traffic between Main Street businesses and sporting events. This will be especially beneficial during the slower winter season, opening up promotional opportunities to encourage people to visit downtown. “One thing we’ve always vowed is the entire town of Polson and neighboring towns will benefit from this, not just that one neighborhood on the hill,” Lozar stated.
All of the school districts within the valley will benefit as well, Lozar emphasized. With so many schools within a 30-minute drive, the arena will be in a good position to host P.E. classes, school field trips, and free skate days for students who would otherwise have to trek to Missoula to get on the ice. “We can have so many opportunities for kids who otherwise wouldn’t get to skate more than once or twice per year to come and use our rink often without putting anybody out in any way,” Lozar commented. “We’re all very excited.”
Additionally, Lozar mentioned the location also gives the incoming ice arena a unique status as being one of the only ice rinks on a reservation. This provides the organization with the opportunity to cultivate partnerships with Tribal transportation, businesses, and entities that assist with afterschool childcare, increasing the number of sports available to the Tribal population especially.
Upcoming announcements and activities can be found online on their Facebook page at: facebook.com/MissionValleyIceArena or on their website: missionvalleyicearena.com. Places to donate and information about getting involved with the organization can be found there as well.
“I feel like there are so many opportunities to make this project successful. We have so many good minds working on it that I don’t foresee any massive roadblocks in the future,” Lozar said. “Of course there will be some, construction is never easy, but we’ve got so many good people that are so creative that I think the rink will be incredibly successful, and it’ll benefit the towns in this valley so much.”