A few dozen digs into the ground on Wednesday afternoon signified a major milestone for the Ice Dreams Campaign.
The organization broke ground on a series of upgrades to the outdoor and indoor rink areas at Chippewa Ice Arena with the upgrades expected to be completed in time for the 2016-17 prep hockey regular season.
The organization began discussing the upgrades in 2012 before kicking off their fundraising campaign earlier this year. To date the campaign has raised more than $800,000 towards its $900,000 goal.
The money will go towards upgrading the outdoor skating rink on the south side of the ice arena while also adding a cover to the rink to allow for better and more consistent ice conditions for skaters, as well as a multi-use facility for the public during the non-winter months. The outdoor rink is free of charge to use.
“It’s a lot bigger than just high school hockey,” Ice Dreams Foundation committee chairman Scott Sikkink said. “It’s a community thing. This outdoor rink is going to give people the chance to skate that might not otherwise get it. Lets say they have the day off and it’s snowing. They can still come up here, and in the past that hasn’t been available to them.”
Sikkink also said the Chippewa Falls Youth Hockey organization has already discussed several possibilities for events it could host at the new outdoor rink.
Inside the ice arena, the campaign will build additional locker rooms for the boys and girls high school hockey teams as well as figure skaters. Those locker room upgrades are needed for logistical and health reasons, as well as to provide a better experience for the athletes, according to the Sikkink.
“When you go into your own locker room and you have your own locker room where you can leave your things day in and day out, it has something a little bit different to it. A prestige factor and a pride factor,” Sikkink said.
Excavation on the project is scheduled to begin on June 1 with the outdoor upgrades being completed later this summer. Sikkink said the organization will explore other ways to make the most of the money they’ve raised if they are unable to reach their goal. More than 75 foundations, businesses and individuals have donated to the campaign.
Those interested in donating towards the project can reach out to the campaign on its Facebook page, through a GoFundMe account that is run through the Community Foundation of Chippewa County or by stopping by the ice arena to pick up a donation form in the lobby.
“We really have a tremendous community and tremendous support,” Sikkink said. “It’s really been unbelievable in a short period of time, seeing how many people and businesses and foundations have stepped up to get us to where we are today. It’s humbling.”