Caps Ice Facility Prepped for Opening

(Saturday, October 28, 2006 8:21 AM EDT)
Get your ice skates out: The Washington Capitals Ice Center in Ballston is ready to open its doors.

County and team officials have set Nov. 3 as the date of the formal opening of the facility, which is home to two rinks: a public rink with seating for 1,200, and the pro hockey team's own practice rink, which seats 250.

The $42 million center, financed by the Arlington County government and sitting atop the Ballston Public Parking Garage, is seen as a spur to the ongoing economic strength of the county. It is particularly likely to boost Ballston Common Mall.

“I think it will be great for business,” said Kerry Nave, general manager for Macy's at the mall. “It'll bring out a younger crowd.”

Instead of sitting in your car in the middle of nowhere waiting for kids to finish practicing on the rink, “you can go shopping or get a cup of coffee at Starbucks,” said Tom Newman, director of the Real Estate Group for Arlington Economic Development.

Numerous school hockey teams and clubs - including Yorktown High School, the county middle-school team and George Mason and Georgetown universities - plan to use the center.

The rinks also will be available for youth teams, figure skaters, and people just out to have a good time. Rooms are available to rent for parties and community events.

“This is the first facility inside the Beltway like this,” said County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman.

After a long and sometimes difficult negotiation process, the Capitals agreed to move their practice facility from Maryland to Ballston. While the county government is funding the project, the hockey team will pay back its cost over the course of a 30-year lease.

Although the Capitals have the ice reserved for about 500 hours of the year, more than 6,000 hours of ice time will be available for public use. Even when the Capitals are practicing, everyone is welcome to watch free of charge, and the players will be available for autographs.

“We're moving closer to our fans,” said Nate Ewell, director of media relations for the Capitals. The Ballston location “allows our team to interact with the community,” he said.

Still up in the air: whether a business will purchase “naming rights” to put its name on the facility. Sources say there likely will be no formal ceremonies dedicating the center until that issue is cleared up.

For full details on the center, see the Web site at

Washington Capitals' official Nate Ewell discusses the team's new practice facility in Ballston.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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