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Programs put icing on the cake

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff
Park City Ice Arena Assistant Manger and Hockey Director Jim Dingle is ready to make some power moves on the new ice sheet.
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Jim Dingle can remember a time while living in Denver, Colo. when there was only one hockey program. Now the hockey-crazed town can’t get enough of the sport. Dingle, who just moved to the area to head up programs — especially those of the hockey nature — at the new Park City Ice Arena hopes to spawn the same phenomenon.

"I think once the word gets out, it will be amazing," Dingle said.

Dingle has not always been directing hockey programs. His road to the rink actually began in the classroom. He taught for many years in the New England area before moving to Denver where he taught at Denver University. He eventually moved to Steamboat Springs to teach and met Stacy Noonan when their boys played youth hockey together. Dingle even coached the boys’ midget squad to a state championship one year. When Noonan took the job to become the general manager of the Park City rink, Dingle decided it was time to leave teaching and focus on hockey for a while

Dingle is a native of Rochester, Minn., where hockey trumps football or baseball any day of the week, so his foundation is solid. He has been a part of many hockey camps, clinics and teams and is excited to bring his vision to Park City.

"I want to have our facility on the cutting edge of programs in the state of Utah," Dingle said.

Besides having a full-service ice rink with hockey, figure skating, curling, speedskating and the like, he also wants to incorporate yoga and nutrition classes, fully utilize the outdoor fields and eventually develop a trail system behind the building. He wants to create programs that work hand-in hand with the United States Skiing and Snowboarding Association (USSA) and the National Ability Center (NAC) to help athletes perform better and eventually become a model for other facilities. He also hopes to work with the Youth Winter Sports Alliance and freestyle and Nordic programs to use the ice as a training tool for their athletes.

Make no mistake, though, he’s a hockey man at heart. Dingle has already set up an extensive schedule of Learn-to-Play-Hockey programs for youth (both boys and girls), women, and men. He has also extended invitations to the greater Summit County area and Heber to share in the programs and use the ice. The rink is still a year or so away from forming its own league Dingle will rely on the established programs in the Salt Lake Valley for that — but he is fast laying the groundwork to eventually form Park City teams and one day a Park City league.

"We want to establish good quality programs here," Dingle said.

He wants to make sure all that are interested can learn to skate, learn to play hockey and other winter sports. Between hockey lessons and drop-in hockey sessions, the rink already has many viable options for all populations, not just young men, such as females, seniors and parents and children together.

"We want to form a big women’s program," Dingle said. " And women play the game better than men," he added.

There will be a separate hockey locker room for women and he is using role models like Park City High School assistant hockey coach Deb Modrovsky to attract women to the game.

The sport of disabled sledge hockey will also be at the forefront of the rink’s programs. The team benches surrounding the rink are covered top-to-bottom in clear tempered glass so that players in its sleds can see the entire rink. The rink will store the sleds when they are not in use, and Dingle is working extensively with the NAC to help the sledge hockey programs to continue to grow.

Younger children can benefit from Dingle’s personally designed "Initiation to Hockey" program, which closely follows the "Learn to Skate " programs taught throughout Utah, but includes many of Dingle’s own teaching philosophies and incorporates fun and games into the program.

Dingle hopes that the rink can become somewhat self sufficient within the community. He plans to hold referee and coaching clinics so the community can increase their hockey knowledge and become part of programs. There will be drop-in hockey times in the early evening during the week rather than late nights like many other rinks, and late nights on the weekends so youth can spend their social time in a fun and safe environment.

Dingle has tapped into the resources and ideas of the rinks in Salt Lake and surrounding areas to help become prosperous in the early stages. He has been in discussion with Jim Johansson of USA Hockey to spread the word about the rink as a destination for high altitude training for pro teams, as well as a host facility for district camps and tournaments.

His vision does not stop there. In a few years, he’d like to see the rink expand to house two ice sheets, the second with seating for up to 1,000, which would allow for multiple tournaments to be held at the facility.

Dingle’s far-reaching goals are grounded in reality. He wants to make sure that the rink is feasible for everyone, so he has created affordable hockey equipment rental packages for those with financial constraints. He is also looking for ways to reach out to the Latino community, encouraging their use of the outdoor fields for soccer and using outreach programs to get them involved with hockey. He also plans to hold a number of fundraisers and submit grant proposals to further fund affordable hockey programs.

Local high hockey teams also stand to profit from the rink. Park City High School’s team boasts tons of talent, but the inability to practice more than one night a week at a Salt Lake rink has been a challenge for the program. A home rink means regular practices, a home ice advantage for games and even an opportunity for the team to get involved in community service, teaching younger kids to skate. Wasatch High School is also planning on sharing the ice for their season.

Dingle isn’t doing any of this on his own though. Besides the direction of Noonan, Dingle is relying into the local talent to help the programs succeed. Retired NHL goalie Rick Tabaracci will help with many of the programs and Dingle is looking to use other former and current NHLers living in the area, such as Claude Lemieux and Luke Robitaille as advisors for his hockey programs. Locals who haven’t skated in many years are also popping up and volunteering to get involved.

Dingle’s aspirations are big, but he feels that things will keep falling into place and benefit the area.

"The future looks really bright," Dingle said.

For more information on hockey or the new Park City Ice Rink, visit http://www.pcice.org . The grand opening is Saturday, Feb. 25. Activities will include free skate rental, open skate, facility tours, and on-ice demonstrations in hockey, figure skating, speed skating and more. Information on ice arena programs will also be available. To attend an activity-filled session during the weekend, register at http://www.pcice.org or pick up tickets at City Hall, the Park City Racquet Club or the Basin Recreation Field House. Please bring a copy of the receipt or ticket to gain admittance. The free-skate session will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25 fro 8 a.m.-10p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 26 from 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. The arena is located at the intersection of Highway 40 and S.R. 248.


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