Brand-New Ice Skating Destinations Are Opening in South Florida Next Year

Two state-of-the-art ice skating facilities are on tap to open next year in South Florida, each aiming to serve as all-in-one venues for families to have fun.

One of them, situated in Fort Lauderdale, will serve as a practice rink for the Florida Panthers, in addition to a host of other amenities. Matt Caldwell, the Panthers’ president and CEO, said the revamp of Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium “will not only provide a unique and exciting opportunity for our players to connect with fans, but create a vibrant, centrally located recreation destination where local families and members of the community can have fun and stay active.”

The other new venue, set to open in Boca Raton, will break ground next week at 900 Peninsula Corporate Circle, just west of Interstate 95 and Congress Avenue. It will be the first rink of its kind in the city open to the public, seeking to draw travel hockey, tourism, theatrical performances and other ice-related activities.
Revamping a historical site

A multimillion-dollar renovation to the War Memorial Auditorium, at 800 NE 8th St., is underway, with an expected opening date set for summer of 2022. A new building at the historical site will bring two ice rinks to allow for ballet performances and lots of hockey.

The rinks will serve as a practice facility and community ice facility, according to the National Hockey League. The Florida Panthers are footing a majority of the costs, originally reported to be $45 million but now said to be $65 million, and the city of Fort Lauderdale is kicking in an $800,000 grant.

The project was announced in 2019 and renovations officially began this week, the NHL said. When finished, the 144,000-square-foot sports and entertainment venue will be able to host ballroom-style concerts and other performances and be capable of accommodating up to 3,800 people for live music and other events.

One rink will be used as a dedicated public rink for youth and adult hockey, figure skating and public skating. The other will be for the Florida Panthers’ practices and feature stadium seating that can accommodate 1,000 people who want to watch practices and training camps.

Drawing Ice Fans to Boca

Currently, city of Boca Raton residents have to go to Coral Springs, Pompano Beach or Lake Worth Beach to ice skate. But the new rink that’s opening in Boca plans to change all that when it kicks off in early 2022.

The venue should be “one of the largest indoor recreation facilities in the area and their possibilities are endless,” said Hal Jacovitz, manager of Peninsula Ice, the company behind Boca Ice.

The rink will provide economic benefits, internships for local colleges, tourism, and travel sports and tournaments, according to Jacovitz.

A 2019 national study on recreation needs ranks ice hockey as drawing relatively low interest, based on a report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, which surveyed over 200,000 people. That study showed a national trend of a 2.3% increase of participation levels over a five-year period, and 3.8% decrease over the span of a year, from 2018-2019.

The city of Boca conducted its own study, and a new hockey rink did not make the top 10 new facilities that residents wanted, out of the 1,320 people surveyed. Still, Jacovitz remains committed.

“Ice hockey is growing really nicely, even within the pandemic,” he said, citing state and national statistics. “In fact, women’s hockey has also continued its growth.”

Beyond hockey, ice-themed parties and other activities for kids and adults, Jacovitz says the environment will offer a constant 68-degree climate, a welcome cool-off during South Florida’s summers, he said.

The company building the rink is run by Jacovitz, who managed Gold Coast Ice Arena, where the Florida Panthers practiced; Jake Dinov, whose background is in hockey facilities and event marketing; and Mitchell Robbins, a restaurateur and entrepreneur.

The building itself will be state of the art, Jacovitz said, with all-electric ultraviolet light air-purification equipment, meant to be an added precaution against COVID-19 and run-of-the-mill germs.

Published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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