Back on the ice

Sled hockey for disabled vets, others among programs as arena celebrates opening after 4 years of re-construction, fundraising

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Shawn Halsted demonstrates sled hockey for disabled veterans during the grand opening of Frontier Ice Arena on Saturday.

COEUR d'ALENE - Just when Gary Duvall was about to inquire about finding disabled veterans a home for sled hockey at the ice arena along Seltice Way four years ago, snow collapsed the facility's roof.

"The roof fell in before I had a chance to ask," said the founder of the Inland Northwest Disabled Veterans Sports Association and a disabled vet himself.

But Duvall never gave up on a dream - and neither did the Kootenai Youth Recreation Organization, the nonprofit that owns and manages the facility.

And on Saturday that dream was realized during the grand opening of the Frontier Ice Arena, opening the doors for youth hockey, figure skating, curling, broomball, sled hockey and other activities.

"It's a big thing for our organization," said Duvall, who is confined to a wheelchair. "I've began working toward a sled hockey program four years ago. When I got on the ice (during a a winter clinic), I said that I'll have to do it again."

Duvall, among those who demonstrated sled hockey during the grand opening, said the program for disabled vets will be for 12 weeks. He then plans to expand it to everyone. The sport is like regular hockey, except participants use aluminum sleds with seats and the periods are shorter. The sleds are propelled by using two hockey sticks.

"We like to have fun," Duvall said. "Part of the organization is about getting youth involved because that gets vets excited and it also gets the kids going."

Frontier Communications in 2011 announced its partnership with KYRO, resulting in the facility's new name.It helped get the nonprofit over the hump with the $800,000 fundraising goal. Insurance paid $2 million for the total $2.8 million facility.

"A lot of people had a hand in making this dream a reality - and we are all so grateful," said Vince Hughes, KYRO president. "We'll have teams and their families traveling from throughout the western states and southwestern Canada for events, tournaments and camps here."

Shawn Meyer, an 10-year-old from Coeur d'Alene, was among hundreds of people who celebrated the opening of the new facility. The event featured a variety of demonstrations, informational booths and food.

"I really think that a lot of kids and adults will be able to use this place, and that's nice," Meyer said.

Some features of the year-round, 34,000-square-foot facility include:

• National Hockey League-sized ice sheet with room to expand;

• locker rooms with their own shower/restroom;

• mezzanine-level locker room with a coach's office designed for a minor league hockey team;

• referee locker room with shower/restroom;

• 4,000-square-foot lobby/viewing area with tables/seating overlooking the ice;

• rinkside seating and standing room for 350 spectators;

• private party room for up to 30 people;

• concession stand; and

• skate rental and sharpening service.

Back on the ice

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