Gateway Ice Center in FresnoNov 29, 2018 11:00AM ● By Melissa Mendonca
Story by Melissa Mendonca
THERE'S A PLACE TO GO when the holiday goodies start to make the pants feel tighter and the weather keeps you from exercising outdoors. Gateway Ice Center has opportunities for community skating, hockey and broomball (a hockey-style game using soccer techniques with players wearing shoes rather than skates). “It's quality entertainment with physical exercise thrown in,” says General Manager Jeff Blair. “A lot of people don't even realize it.”
Open year round, there's a special vibe to the winter months, when staff go all out to create the winter wonderland of holiday songs and nostalgia. “It's a festive thing to do,” adds Blair. “We have a nice holiday display that we've spent years putting together. It's got backgrounds for photo shoots.”
Gateway Ice Center has been a Fresno favorite since 1995, when it opened with a state-of-the-art direct refrigerant ice field. “It still rivals anything out there,” Blair says about the National Hockey League-regulation sized platform. For years, the center hosted the FresnoMonsters Ice Hockey team, helping them outgrow the facility and move to Selland Arena, which holds a greater capacity. “We've done our best to build hockey and grow it,” adds Blair. “The Fresno Monsters are part of that and part of us.”
While the center is eager to foster the dreams of those aspiring to professional-level status as figure skaters and hockey players, it also encourages families and friends to come in for fun. “We have kids as young as 3 years old on the ice,” says Blair. “If the kid can get up efficiently, we're all right with it. It's all about the mindset of the child and the parent. We're just an all-around family-friendly place. It's not so expensive that it breaks the bank.”
Fear not if you've never laced up a pair of skates. The center offers lessons through Learn to Skate USA. “It's basically USA Figure Skating/USA Hockey guidelines, testing, qualifications,” explains Blair, noting that it's the largest ice teaching program in the country. “During Olympic years, you always see a bump in people wanting to get involved in general ice skating or hockey,” he adds. One need not be an Olympic hopeful or even fully able-bodied to enjoy the ice, however. “We operate a sled hockey program with Valley Children's Hospital,” notes Blair. This adaptive program allows children in wheelchairs to participate. Children from Special Olympics also have opportunities to play on the ice.
On December 1, the center will further its reach to the community with a special ice show by the Ice Skating Club of Fresno in support of Toys for Tots. A new, unwrapped toy or $10 cash opens the doors of admission to a spectacular figure skating show. The Fresno Monsters hosted a Teddy Bear Toss on November 24 in support of Toys for Tots, as well. Fans threw teddy bear donations onto the ice after the first goal of the game against Utah.
The center also sends its Stick it to Fitness members out to schools and community groups to talk about fitness and the fun that can be had with ice sports. “We want to combat the obesity epidemic in children,” says Blair.
The center has also become a fun place for birthday parties and offers a variety of packages for private party rooms.
Regardless of your reason for showing up, a day on the ice is sure to create winter memories for a good long while. Grab your friends, family and camera for a little exercise that will only feel like fun. •
Gateway Ice Center
2473 N. Marks Ave., Fresno
(559) 277-2233 • www.gatewayicecenter.com
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