Whoever laces up their skates and hits the ice first after the Breslow Ice Hockey Center opens at noon on Tuesday will cut the first grooves in Lincoln’s first year-round indoor ice skating arena.
The NHL-sized rink inside the $11 million facility will soon be the bustling headquarters for skating, hockey, curling, broomball and other activities, said Glen Danischewski, vice president of Rink Management Services Corporation, which will run the Breslow.
“Until now, we’ve only taken the Zamboni to it,” Danischewski said. “The first person out there will be the first person to skate on this new sheet of ice. They’ll be the lucky ones.”
Nestled between Pinnacle Bank Arena and Haymarket Park, and just a snowball’s throw from Memorial Stadium, the Breslow Center will meet a “huge, pent-up demand” for year-round skating, Danischewski said.
“For eight years, there has been a desire in Lincoln to have an ice skating facility,” he said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of people who go to Omaha or other places to play hockey, take skating lessons and utilize the ice.”
Beginning this week, Danischewski said, the Breslow Ice Hockey Center will be a unique venue for ice sports and leisure.
That was the vision of John Breslow, former Nebraska state auditor and former co-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes NHL team, who gifted $7 million toward building an ice center to be run by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
An additional $2 million donation from the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency and land donation by the City of Lincoln created a community center that will become an asset for everyone from youth hockey teams to aspiring figure skaters, Danischewski said.
Construction on the Breslow was met with several delays, from a deluge of rain in May, troubles with site preparation and a delay of climate control equipment for the facility.
Kingery Construction, the general contractor hired by UNL, forged ahead through the summer and into the fall, when the tailor-made dehumidification equipment arrived and was installed to keep the arena at 50 degrees with humidity resting around a steady 50 percent.
Some 6 miles of pipes wind through the Breslow along with 13 miles of electrical wiring, and late last month, 15,000 gallons of water was poured into the rink and frozen into nearly 250 sheets of ice.
The rink's 2 inches of ice was painted last week -- a red Husker “N” spreads across center ice -- to ready it for skaters beginning Tuesday.
And when a zinc façade is finished on the exterior of the building, it will resemble the drum of the Pinnacle Bank Arena to the south, said lead architect Stan Meradith, who also designed the arena.
Danischewski said other accommodations have been included in the Breslow for club and youth hockey teams, intramural athletes and casual and competitive skaters.
Five hundred pairs of skates are available for rental at the main desk, which is next to a concession stand in the main lobby. An area for spectators is also available in the lobby for those who want to stay out of the cold.
Locker rooms line the outside of the rink, with four built for hockey teams and a smaller one for small groups, Danischewski said.
The wheelchair accessible bleachers lining the west wall can hold up to 700 fans, while team boxes for sled hockey -- played on a special sled instead of skates for athletes with physical disabilities -- provide easy ice access for future sled hockey events.
Hockey tournaments, held in conjunction with the Ice Box, which is open in the winter months and used extensively by the Lincoln Stars hockey team, will be made possible with the opening of a second sheet of ice, Danischewski said, while the center also expects to hold Special Olympics activities in the future.
Danischewski said there are no hard plans to expand the center at this time, but he noted the Breslow was built with future expansion in mind.
For now, he said Rink Management Services Corporation is eager to see the first skaters gliding over the long-anticipated indoor ice center on Tuesday.
“You’re not going to find anything like this anywhere else,” he said. “This is really a community center.”