New ice hockey arena could be in the works for Virginia Beach
New ice hockey arena could be in the works for Virginia Beach
On the fringe of Town Center, hidden behind a strip shopping center, a modest skating rink has been home to the city’s ice sports for decades.

Iceland Family Skating Center’s robust youth hockey and figure-skating programs are growing each year. But the outdated, 30-year-old former grocery store building can’t keep up. Almost 20 teams use the rink, which is smaller than regulation-size. They gather in cramped locker rooms without lockers and showers. Old Dominion and Regent universities’ club hockey teams also practice there.

The center lacks handicapped-accessible restrooms for participants of its new sled hockey program for people with disabilities.

“We are busting at the seams at this facility,” said Bob Pizzini, an ice hockey coach.

He’s got a shot on goal, though: a new $10 million ice arena in Virginia Beach.

Pizzini is one of three people behind the idea to build a 90,000-square-foot building, possibly near the Princess Anne Athletic Complex, that would house two NHL regulation-size ice sheets.

It would be called The Warrior Ice Center.

The main showcase rink would have about 4,000 seats for spectators. A second rink could be converted for non-ice events.

Pizzini has begun to share the idea and a funding concept for it with city officials.

He has experience with sports-related projects. Pizzini opened iFly indoor skydiving facility at the Oceanfront five years ago and is chairman of the Hampton Roads Sports Commission, a regional organization that attracts and hosts events.

He’s teaming up with Rich Appleby of the Hampton Roads Youth Hockey Association, which owns the property leased to Iceland, and Ryan Croley, a board member of the Warrior For Life Fund, a nonprofit that supports ice hockey programs for military families dealing with long deployments and other combat-related challenges.

Iceland would relocate to the new facility, with proceeds from the sale of the property helping pay for construction. The Warrior for Life Fund, which has launched a fundraising campaign, would also contribute. Anthony Cabana, former Boston Bruins player, is the fund’s president.

Fundraising kicked off this summer when the Boston Bruins Alumni hosted three youth hockey clinics in July at Iceland. Former NHL players attended and signed autographs.

They were able to experience the skating center’s budding sled hockey program. That’s where players are seated in sleds and use two hockey sticks to play.

Croley, who is retiring from the Navy soon, started an effort with support from the Navy SEAL Foundation to hold family skating events for active-duty military personnel and their families.

“It seemed to take off and do really well,” Croley said.

When children and their parents take that first wobbly step onto the ice, it helps them unwind and reconnect.

“They go through the crucible together,” Croley said. “They can make fun of each other. From that perspective, it’s been great."

Stacy Parker, stacy.parker@pilotonline.com, 757-222-5125

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