Meakin's dream closer to reality

Bremerton Ice Arena director Greg Meakin stands where center ice will be at the skating rink now being built in Manette. Below, an archiectural rendering of the nearly 40,000-square foot arena’s front entrance on Homer Jones Drive near the Kitsap Family YMCA. - Photo by Sean Lamphere
Bremerton Ice Arena director Greg Meakin stands where center ice will be at the skating rink now being built in Manette. Below, an archiectural rendering of the nearly 40,000-square foot arena’s front entrance on Homer Jones Drive near the Kitsap Family YMCA.
— image credit: Photo by Sean Lamphere

On a hillside overlooking the Port Washington Narrows, a gravel-filled, muddy hole is leading the charge in Bremerton’s redevelopment.

If all goes to plan, what’s now a construction site on Homer Jones Drive will become a nearly 40,000-square foot, high-tech ice skating palace known as the Bremerton Ice Arena in spring 2003.

The dream of building an ice skating rink in Kitsap County was the brainchild of Canadian-born Greg Meakin who wanted a local place for his twin sons Carson and Colton to play hockey. With the closest ice arenas in North Seattle or Tacoma, Meakin first proposed building at the Fairgrounds.

After neighborhood complaints put the project on indefinite hold, Meakin shopped the idea of a $4 million, National Hockey League-sized ice skating rink to Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman who put the project on the fast track. Groundbreaking occurred Sept. 6, 2002, on unused city property in Eastpark.

“But something funny happened on the way to Manette,” Meakin said. “When the Fairgrounds deal blew up and word got out we were moving to this location, there was an outpouring from people who contacted us and praised us for keeping the project together.”

In listening to the support, Meakin said he realized how much of a need for ice there was throughout the county.

“There was a lot of outpouring from the Bainbridge and North Kitsap markets because people realized it would be a bit of a drive,” he said. “It became very clear that there was more need for rinks in Kitsap County simply with the population base and how extended the geographic mileage is.”

There’s also the problem of having enough ice to go around for everybody. Even without having established a deep market, more than 60 percent of the ice time is already reserved between the hours of 6 a.m.-10 p.m. for youth and adult hockey, figure skating, time for the City of Bremerton and public skating.

“Public skating is going to be very big,” Meakin said. “In some markets public skating is considered an afterthought. Here it’s going to be big because people need something to do. We’re going to have very big Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. My goal is to have it for $10 or less for kids to have a nice evening. So it will be comparable to going to the theater and popcorn won’t cost $4. The goal is to make it affordable.”

And Meakin said there are plans under way to make ice arenas nearly as common as movie theaters in the county.

“I’m pleased that this site is a great foundation for ice sports in Kitsap County but help is on the way,” he said. “On the drawing board — this is not the feasiblity stage — there are rinks planned for North Kitsap and South Kitsap by 2004.

“The key is to break the ice because it’s new to a lot of people here. There are people that have grown up elsewhere in the country that are behind this. But breaking the ice is always a challenge, but people won’t know how they lived without it.”

Besides hockey and figure skating, Meakin said he’d like to introduce other ice sports such as short-track speed skating and broomball which is basically hockey with tennis shoes instead of skates.

“I would like to establish Kitsap County as an ice sports area that’s recognized statewide. We’re going to bring that type of quality to the area and be recognized as the place to be for ice sports and host regional events.”

But ice won’t be the only attraction at the arena. Meakin knows that the non-skaters need to be comfortable as well.

“There isn’t a detail concerning this arena that hasn’t been considered,” he said.

Leading the list of creature comforts is a heated lobby area complete with a top-notch concessions stand, video-game arcade and an elevated view of the skating rink.

“The air on the rink is 20-40 degrees,” Meakin said. “And taking note of that, there are specific warm areas. There are some rinks where the actual seating area in the lobby is a cold area too, which isn’t comfortable,” though the Bremerton arena’s lobby will be a comfortable 70 degrees.

“The theme in ice rinks is generally fun and colorful and bright and I’m going to do as much high-tech stuff as we can. It’s going to be a bright, fun, happy place to be. This lobby is a key area. I wanted this to be a family destination and it’s important for parents, especially moms, to be comfortable when they come here. I know this will be a place where folks will spend hours drinking espresso sitting in front of the fireplace.”

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