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Butte High Altitude Skating Oval Looking To Expand

By Mike Smith, Montana Standard | Jan. 20, 2017, 12:53 p.m. (ET)

A group that has revived activity at the skating oval in Butte wants to put in an outdoor hockey rink with lights and have the county provide a part-time “ice meister” from December through February.

Dave Silk, a physician and former champion speed skater from Butte, said more people are using the High Altitude skating oval off Continental Drive because of skate rentals, concessions, and other steps taken the past three years, and they have come to expect “good ice.”

Live music, a bonfire, and other activities are planned at the oval just north of the Three Bears Alaska store on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. to open this weekend’s Snöflinga winter festival in Butte. (See schedule in today's TGIF section.)

“With a few investment dollars, Butte can have a truly one-of-a-kind community rink that would be the envy of the region,” Silk, president of the skating oval, wrote in a letter to Butte-Silver Bow commissioners last week.

“However, maintaining outdoor ice, especially a large surface, is quite labor intensive,” the letter said. “Due to continuous snow removal and the elements, there is a huge contrast between maintaining indoor and outdoor ice.”

The group is raising money for the hockey rink and lights, and the council on Wednesday referred the request for a part-time employee to its Public Works Committee. It could take up the issue next week.

Parks Director J.P. Gallagher said Thursday he does not have the personnel or budget to provide a part-time employee to care for the ice, but he told Silk to take his request to commissioners. The council has final say each year over the county’s annual budget, and it can create new positions.

The county provided a part-time employee to tend ice years ago, Gallagher said he was told, but that was when the skating oval was a prominent place for competitive speed skating and training.

“We have less people working for Parks and Rec now (than then), and we have a lot more parks and trails,” Gallagher said. “But I said, ‘Go present this to the council.’ I’m not discouraging him from trying.”

For many years, parks employee Charlie Worley manned a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine and tended the ice during winter months. He retired in 2002.

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