Forget the President, and the nationally-publicized speech that attracted thousands of enthusiastic viewers. Forget the nationally-ranked hockey team playing below last season’s Frozen Four banners. Forget the up-and-com-ing men’s basketball team, current conference leaders and pushing for a title. In fact, for now, disregard the main floor of Baxter Arena entirely.
The action at Baxter Arena doesn’t always come with Air Force One or national rankings. Students at UNO, and the Omaha community in general, can create their own fun with Baxter’s Holland Community Ice.
When the Mavs take the main ice for NCHC hockey matches, they enjoy the luxury of a dedicated, NHL-standard ice sheet. One of the main reasons the arena was built was to escape the embarrassing situation of being the only big-time Division I hockey school without a dedicated arena. But not only does the hockey team get their own ice slab, the UNO community gets one too.
The Holland Community Ice is the same size as the main event: the NHL-standard 85 by 200 ft. When the Mavs aren’t practicing on it, all 17,000 square feet of it are reserved for community use. With provisions for curling, figure skating, free skating and of course hockey, ample use can be made by anyone in the community of the rink.
For UNO students in particular, the Community Ice is a great amenity. Not having to drop a penny for Student Skate nights, even if one needs to rent skates, means one can hang out with friends or get some exercise on one’s own for nothing, five nights a week. In addition, there are dedicated times for students to play hockey and curl.
I haven’t taken the fullest advantage of the Holland Community Ice yet, but I went to a Student Skate night last week. Unless what I did with my car on the streets of Omaha a couple of weeks ago counts, it had been a while since I’d formally ice-skated. I have to admit, I felt a little trepidatious. Ice is scary, and running around on it with knives on your feet is just an inherently frightening concept.
But whatever small misgivings I had, they faded away quickly. Getting out on the ice reminded me of when I was a kid, skating at Tranquility Park or Mahoney. I was able to briefly relive Miracle and Winter Olympics-fueled fantasies of frozen glory, as soon as my legs stopped wobbling.
What I really appreciated was the the atmosphere. Students from all sorts of demographics, skating at every speed imaginable, but all happy and positive, moving in the same direction around the big chunk of ice. Some of them were probably skating for the first time, while others were elaborately showing off. But there weren’t any collisions, and no blood or teeth lost.
The facility is pristine, but I’m more excited about the community. I’ll be aiming to go as much as I can make it down, and with as many of my friends as I can. Who knows, maybe I’ll take up curling.