HALLOWELL — The Bank of Maine Ice Vault opened July 7, a little less than five months after a groundbreaking.

Figure skaters and hockey players have since glided over and fired slap shots on the slick new ice surface.

All that remained to commemorate the $4 million arena was an official ribbon cutting.

That came Friday afternoon, when rink officials touted the arena in a short ceremony before a few hundred onlookers.

“This is not an ice arena,” owner Peter Prescott told the crowd. “This is a family skating facility.

“We’ve tried to put everything in.”

With that, Prescott, his son Steve, Rosy Santerre and Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce President Peter Thompson grabbed some shears and sliced through a multi-layered strand of blue and white ribbons.

Spectators were then treated to tours.

“I hope people will enjoy this rink, particularly the youngsters,” said Rosy Santerre, 90, one of the original owners of the Kennebec Ice Arena, which was built in 1973 and collapsed under the weight of heavy snow and ice on March 2, 2011. “I hope they take care of the rink.”

There is still work to be done inside the Ice Vault. The workout room, for example, is not yet finished.

“We’re still here a little bit,” said Blane Casey, whose South China company oversaw construction. “We still have some odds and ends to do.”

Many had already seen or skated in the new arena, which will host summer hockey leagues, figure skating and clinics as well as other events this summer.

Some, like Augusta native and 2010 U.S. Olympian Julia Clukey, enjoyed their first glimpse.

Clukey, 27, who is ramping up her training in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, said the Ice Vault “will offer a lot to the community.”

“I wanted to come out and see the new venue,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome. Anything that will be new for kids in the area is positive in my eyes.”

Clukey said she will return to Lake Placid, N.Y., within the next two months to start training for the luge.

“I hope to use (Ice Vault) for some paddle training in the near future, too,” Clukey said. “When we pull off we paddle the ice with our hands. In New York, we do it a lot, but I think it would be neat for people to see the training. I’m kind of scouting it out a little bit.”

She wasn’t the only one.

Steve Fraser, 47, a finance professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla., and 1983 Cony High School graduate, said he practically grew up in the KIA.

He soaked in the atmosphere Friday and reminisced about his skating days.

“We come up to Maine every summer and this really worked out,” he said. “I used to work in the KIA in 1982. I put a lot of miles on the Zamboni. A little part of your heart broke when it collapsed. It’s exciting because this place still reminds you of the (KIA).”

After graduating, Fraser went on to become a successful hockey referee. He worked minor league and Division I college games before retiring eight years ago.

“I was able to live out my dream through refereeing,” he said. “It’s nice to know another generation can come here with their own dreams.”


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