Denfeld News

July 16, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Norton Park rallies around rink
By Patrick Garmoe

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, Norton Park resident Chuck Oliver was never far from a place to whack a puck.

“I could see the rink right behind my backyard, through the woods,” he said. “There seemed to be rinks all over.”

Pickup neighborhood hockey games were as routine as a winter chill.

After getting married, Oliver moved back to the old neighborhood so his three kids could grow up skating at Norton Park’s hockey rink.

“Nowadays,” Oliver said of the neighborhood rinks, “we’re losing them left and right.”

Which is why Oliver, along with a small army of his neighbors in Norton Park, are in the midst of trying to hold onto a piece of their past — and, they hope, their future.

For 10 years, the Norton Park Community Club has been discussing ways to repair the old hockey rink, with asphalt marred by cracks, weeds and broken pipes.

“We’ve decided just resurfacing it is the way to go,” said Steve Abramson, Norton Park Community Club’s president. This also will create a nice surface for skaters and basketball players, Abramson said.

Ripping up, removing and replacing the asphalt would cost about $50,000.

To pay for it, proponents hope to get a piece of the city’s share of federal Community Development Block Grant money.

If they get the cash, it won’t be until 2009.

The City Council decided 7-2 last week to put on hold new improvement project requests like this for at least a year, so a master future facilities construction plan can be written.

“We just think if we don’t do anything, it’s going to deteriorate and it’s all going to fall apart and there will be nothing there,” Oliver said.

The pleasure rink near the wrecked hockey rink is constantly crowded with hockey players and casual ice skaters, creating an unsafe condition, Abramson said.

Neighbors argue there’s an acute need for more space for kids and teams wanting to play hockey, because indoor ice time is expensive.

Now it appears summer of 2009 would be the earliest the new rink would be done.

Meanwhile, Abramson, Oliver and several friends and neighbors plan to repaint the boards and do other small fixes.

Kyle Conley, 17, of Norton Park grew up playing on the hockey rink and still plays pick-up games at the pleasure rink nearby.

Even when he was 5 or 6, skating on the old hockey rink was tough going.

“It’s really uneven. You can’t really skate on it,” Conley said.

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