Donation makes ice arena dream a reality

Greg Meakin’s voice cracked with emotion when he announced that his dream to build an ice arena in Silverdale had come true.

“Apart from my wedding day and the day my children were born, this is one of the happiest days of my life,” said Meakin, who first announced his venture in January 2001.

Joanne and Chuck Haselwood, owners of the Haselwood Auto Group, have offered to finance the nearly $4 million project.

Details of the financial agreement between the Haselwoods and Meakin will be confidential, said Michael Gould, director of marketing for the Haselwood Auto Group.

“I love ice skating,” said Joanne Haselwood.

Haselwood said she doesn’t skate, but is a fan of figure skating.

The Silverdale Ice Arena, which will open in the fall or winter of 2002, will likely be built at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. It originally was slated to be built on Old Frontier Road, but high development costs prompted Meakin to turn his attention to the Fairgrounds.

If it is built there, the land would be traded in exchange for hours of use in the arena, said Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Director Cris Gears. The land would be appraised, and a number of hours equal to its value would be devoted to parks and recreation activities.

Meakin said the land arrangement fits with his original mission to ensure everyone has access to ice sports programs.

“I’d like everyone to know that from the beginning this has been much more than a business project. I consider it a community service,” said Meakin, originally from Montreal, Canada, dubbed the hockey capital of the world.

Planned uses of the arena will include public skating sessions; figure skating; learn-to-skate programs; youth and adult hockey programs; physical education skating session for schools; and regional hockey tournaments.

The Fairgrounds also likely will be the site of a new equestrian facility and improvements to Thunderbird Stadium. Those projects will be funded by a state sales tax refund obtained through the county Public Facilities District (PFD).

During public comment on the PFD improvements, the ice arena plan was criticized by residents of the Fairgrounds neighborhood for not doing enough to curb noise, traffic and environmental damage.

Asked what project managers would do to address these concerns, Gears said he has planned four meetings: one for neighbors, one for potential patrons, one for county fair interests and one for the public.

“We want to package and bundle the information and relay it to the decision makers,” Gears said.

Meakin said ice arenas are low-impact facilities. He pointed out that proximity to an ice arena might boost the property value of surrounding homes.

“Where I lived, walking distance of an ice arena was real prime property,” said Meakin.

Meakin previously attempted to fund the project with what he called the Ice Cube Program. Community members and businesses could purchase $500, 8-inch by 8-inch, glass “ice cubes” which will be displayed near the entrance to the building.

He said he will continue to promote the program, but he would not say how much money he has raised so far.

The Haselwoods previously have contributed money to the Olympic College library, Admiral Theater and Pendergast Field.

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