Ice Arena management looks back at 40 years of ice rink history

Darian Thomas

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State University Ice Arena. Past patrons turned management look back at the changes over the years.

Bill Switaj, 17-year manager of the Ice Arena, said it was originally supposed to be more than an ice arena.

“The original plan for the Ice Arena was suppose to be a late night rec center that would include two ice arenas, a full track and a workout area,” Switaj said.

The main rink holds 1,500 people in addition to a smaller recreational rink. The smaller rink is typically used for general skating and practices while the main rink is used for games.

A lobby that includes a snack bar and party room connects the two rinks. The Ice Arena is also one of the few rinks in the United States that has a battery-powered zamboni.

The Ice Arena went under major renovation between 2006 and 2007, which included the upgrade of locker rooms and seating in the main arena.

In addition to the hockey and skating programs, the Ice Arena offers broomball classes and intramural leagues. Jim Underwood, director of hockey operations and broomball instructor said broomball is growing in popularity.

Underwood said he owes a lot to the rink. While he’s worked for the Ice Arena for six years, he’s used the facility long before he started working there.

“I put my first ice skates on in this rink in the mid to late 80s and now this is going to be my sixth year as director of hockey operations,” he said. “It has all kind of come full circle for me.”

Underwood isn’t the only one who’s been around the Ice Arena for a long time. Julianne Bontrager has been skating at the arena for 37 years and has also seen major changes to the rink.

Bontrager is now the skating director, learn to skate program instructor and teaches the skating class the Ice Arena offers through the university.

“Physical Education classes have come and gone since I’ve been around here,” Botrager said. “I think with the close proximity of rinks now than ever before, it makes us improve our programs because of the competition around us.”

Abby Negrelli, a manager at the Ice Arena, has worked there four years and said the most prominent change she noticed is the merge with Recreational Services.

Recreational Services started managing the Ice Arena in August 2008, but before that the Ice Arena was a separate department.

“By working with Recreational Services, our programs are now viewed by a wider audience,” Negrelli said. “It’s a lot easier for us to get the word out about the Ice Arena.”

Switaj was also happy when he found out Recreational Services was going to manage the Ice Arena.

“It’s been a very positive move because now we are larger in depth in terms of resources,” Switaj said. “It’s just kind of funny that the Ice Arena was suppose to be a rec center and almost 40 years later we’re being managed by one.”

Contact reporter Darian Thomas at [email protected].