(Editor’s note: The location of this protest has been changed to the Loussac Library)
The hockey community in Anchorage is planning a protest at
City Hall the Loussac Library on Wednesday from 4-7 pm to express its displeasure with the apparent permanent takeover by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz of the Ben Boeke Ice Arena to house homeless.
The Ben Boeke Arena is not actually being used to house homeless, as it has been vacated since midsummer after being designated as a homeless shelter by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz back in March. It’s vacated because it was apparently not needed.
But the city is not turning it over and the ice has not been replaced, which it normally is by Aug. 1. It’s just empty.
The hockey community has received threats from Anchorage Assembly members that if it doesn’t actively support the mayor’s plan for purchasing “homeless hotels” then the ice rinks won’t be returned to recreational purposes.
Figure skaters and tryouts usually take place in early August. The users pay $350 an hour to use the facility, per team. The teams and figure skaters are now over at Dempsey Anderson, where the ice is booked solid.
The youth participation in ice sports in Anchorage is in the thousands, and “losing two more sheets of ice for an entire year will have a severe impact on participation that we feel the effects of for several years,” wrote Kirk Kullberg of USA Hockey, State of Alaska, which has over 750 youth participants, plus adult leagues.
For some families the only constant leadership in their lives is their coach, Kullberg said. The athletes in the programs are growing in citizenship as well as in hockey. With students shut out of schools and other activities, access to recreation facilities is especially important, he said.
“I have lost faith in the support from our elected officials to make any decision that supports the hockey and figure skating communities,” he wrote. “I cannot say enough about how the players positively affect the community while they are student athletes and after they have graduated. We need to show our support for maintaining the program that gives our young athletes something to aspire to. I would ask that you all show your support and join us in protesting the use of our rinks for anything other than hockey or other ice skating activities and to maintain the UAA Hockey Program.”