Since 1984 residents have learned to skate, developed hockey skills, and had plenty of fun while at the Emil Aho Memorial Ice Rink in Ahmeek. More commonly known as the Ahmeek Ice Rink, the community has come together to raise funds to repair the outdoor rink. Residents are organizing a fundraising campaign to replace the rink’s outer boards with help from the Keweenaw Area Community Foundation. Calumet High School students Matt Frantti and Kobe Solomonson say that while growing up in Ahmeek, it was nice to have a full-size ice rink close enough to walk to in the winter.
“It was nice. I could come here whenever I wanted because it’s so close to my house. I learned to skate here. And its been nice to play here in the past couple of years.” – Matt Frantti, Calumet High School Junior
Solomonson adds that he wanted to help his community because of what the site has meant to him growing up and hearing stories about playing there from older family members.
“Our parents, and a lot of people we know played here when they were young. And many generations to come will play here.” Kobe Solomonson, Calumet High School Junior
Bruce Coppo and Ace Laurie have helped to maintain the rink throughout the years. Coppo was instrumental in setting up the original ice rink. When the Ahmeek Ice Rink was like many other backyard rinks found in the neighborhood, just a sheet of ice on a section of land.
“I got all of those firemen to come and help. We hooked up to the hydrant at the corner of the street. And made the base for it. We never had any sideboards at the time. But we kept it clean with snow scoops and kids helped out.” Bruce Coppo, Volunteer, Ahmeek Ice Rink
Outdoor rinks offer a different set of challenges than those housed in a facility. Ice conditions after snowfall present the biggest challenge. And Laurie says that the neighborhood kids are a big help in keeping up the rink in the winter.
“Weather permitting every night this rink is usually flooded. That’s weather permitting. And we have kids coming here, I open the rink at 10 am, but from 10 o’clock until midnight there are kids out here. And we have birthday parties here. And for maintenance, there are three of us that are pretty dedicated.” Ace Laurie, Rink Manager, Ahmeek Ice Rink
In the 1990s a project was completed to install the original sideboards. And then in 2019, the Ahmeek Ice Rink received board sheeting from the Calumet Colosseum. Volunteer John Cima says that the entire community has come together to support the board replacement project, setting a goal to raise 100,000 dollars for the new boards.
“The boards come from Becker Arena Products. They’re the same company the Colosseum boards came from. They’re made specifically for outdoor rinks. They’re an aluminum structure with a UV-protected polymer coating. And then we want to put up screening behind both ends to keep pucks from leaving the rink. We’d love to raise funds as quickly as possible over the next six months. With a target to order this summer. Then install the board in late summer or early fall 2024. So that we’re ready to go for our next winter season.” John Cima, Volunteer, Ahmeek Ice Rink
Volunteer Joanie Erkkila says that upgrade efforts started a few months ago with a group putting together project plans and earning a couple of grants from the Keweenaw Area Community Foundation for other projects around the rink. However, after talking with KCF Executive Director Robin Meneguzzo about the scope of the project, they decided to set up a capital campaign for the Ahmeek ice rink.
“So Joanie had approached us at the foundation to ask about different grant opportunities we had. They were successful in receiving two grants from the community foundation. But then I learned kind of the scope of the project. And realized we could be helpful in more ways than just delivering those grants. So at the organization, we talked and said we’d like to help support this special community project, which is something we’ve done in the past. And so we have been helping to fund raise and get the word out. Help the volunteers to come up with ideas for further fundraising. Potentially some external grants as well that we are looking into.” – Robin Menguzzo, Executive Director, Keweenaw Area Community Foundation.
Those that donate to the campaign will even be honored with a display inside the Ahmeek Ice Rink warming shack.
“We’re looking to have some board displayed here in the rink’s warming shack. So that we can recognize those who donate.” – Joanie Erkkila, Volunteer, Ahmeek Ice Rink
The community has set a goal to raise 100,000 dollars to purchase new boards for Ahmeek’s outdoor ice rink. A capital campaign has been organized in the community with the help of the Keweenaw Area Community Foundation. If funding can be sourced on time, volunteers organizing the project hope to have the new boards installed in time for next winter. Organizers are hopeful that individuals and groups in the community that recognize the importance of ice rinks as a healthy outdoor activity where the community can build special bonds, will contribute to the campaign. Those interested in learning more about the Ahmeek Ice Rink can find more information here. Those planning to donate funds to support the project can find a donation link here.