WATERVILLE — Outdoor skating is coming back to the city.
That’s because the Alfond Youth Center has partnered with local volunteers to open two outdoor rinks on North Street, giving people a new place to strap on skates and reclaim a forgotten community tradition, said Ken Walsh, executive director at the center.
After losing the historic South End rink years ago, the city has gone without the timeless Maine pastime of a community gathering at the local outdoor skating rink, Walsh said.
“Skating has been a really big part of our community in the past and finally it’s coming back,” he said.
Walsh wants the new community rinks, opening the first week in January, to build on fond memories of great skaters and hockey players who spent countless hours on the old South End ice.
“It just brings back some really heartfelt stories about the way it used to be and we’re going to try to bring that back,” he said.
Organizers are still working on plans to schedule the hours for the new community rinks, which will be near the outdoor pools at the 126 North St. building.
Bert Languet, a member of the Central Maine Youth Hockey Association, spearheaded the project to install the community rinks. He lives in Belgrade and has watched Waterville residents struggle to find places to skate in recent years, he said.
“A lot of kids in the city don’t have a place to skate,” he said.
There are two indoor skating rinks in the area; one at Colby College in Waterville and the other at Sukee Arena in Winslow. Languet and Walsh didn’t know when the South End rink closed, saying it happened a while ago.
Area hockey teams, both at schools and in youth leagues, already scramble to find ice time at the indoor rinks. Schedules were additionally complicated when the Kennebec Ice Arena in Augusta collapsed last winter and was not rebuilt. Many teams either have to practice very early in the morning or late at night just to find ice time, Languet said.
The new outdoor rinks will give new options for hockey teams and community members looking for a place to skate. There will be night skating thanks to the youth center installing new lights specifically for the rinks, Languet said.
“We’re going to try to build a community rink that is for everybody who just loves to skate,” he said.
The rinks are also gathering skates to loan out for free to the community, Walsh said. People who want more information about the rinks, or to donate skates to the program, should call 873-0684.
David Robinson — 861-9287