Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

Clearwater Ice Arena adds second rink, more features

LARGO — Manuel Rose realized his passion for hockey at a moment that gave the sport one of its enduring images.

Every hockey fan is familiar with the photo of Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the goal that gave the Boston Bruins the 1970 Stanley Cup.

"As a kid growing up in Massachusetts, I played baseball first, but in 1970, because of Bobby Orr, I switched from baseball to hockey," Rose said. "I played it on ponds. I took lessons. It's central in my life."

Fast forward 45 years. Rose, who played hockey while attending Tufts University, is the owner of Rose Radiology Centers and the Tampa Bay Lightning's radiology consultant. If his relationship with the Bolts doesn't prove he has stayed true to his youthful passion, there's the Clearwater Ice Arena, a business Rose took out of bankruptcy after he bought it in 2012. He said it is the oldest rink of its kind in the Sunshine State, and it's undergoing a $5 million expansion that includes adding a second, NHL-size ice rink for hockey, figure skating and community recreational skating.

"I want to help grow hockey in a nontraditional market. I'd like to grow figure skating, too," Rose, 55, said. "With a second rink, I see more adult skaters, more figure skaters, more competitions, more parties, more public skating and more youth."

In the last three years, Rose has already added a new roof, a fitness center, a new dehumidification system and a new entry to the facility. Along with the new rink, the expansion will include an off-ice training facility with synthetic ice for shooting practice and synthetic grass for sled practice, a video conference area, a weight room and new administrative offices.

In October, Rose also added a new general manager — Jim Haverstrom, whose resume includes stints as hockey director at the Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs (training site of the Florida Panthers), the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association as well as the RDV Sportsplex in Orlando.

Haverstrom is a self-proclaimed "rink rat" from Long Island.

"One of the reasons I came here was the excitement of the second rink," he said. "And with the off-ice training facility, we can also be used by other athletes as well — football players and soccer players, for example. It doesn't have to be exclusive to hockey."

Haverstrom also stressed that the expansion was pivotal in the business's success. He easily remembers the days up in the northeast, skating on municipal rinks funded with taxpayer dollars and compares that to Florida's privately funded ice rinks.

"Florida has ball fields that are paid by taxpayers, not ice rinks," he said. "So, it's hard for a one-sheet private rink to be a success. Our (ice rink) is typically full at our busiest time, being from 5 p.m. to midnight. With two sheets of ice, we will be able to add to that and grow exponentially."

The expansion comes at a time when the number of ice hockey players in Florida is growing. More than 4,500 youth players play in about 33 rinks across the state, according to USA Hockey in Colorado. (In Pinellas County, along with the Clearwater Ice Arena, there's Tampa Bay Skating Academy in Oldsmar.) Add to that the Lightning's recent announcement of an initiative called "Build the Thunder," a five-year program to expand youth hockey in the bay area, and it appears Rose has a win-win going.

Tom Garavaglia, the community hockey manager for the Lightning, described the Clearwater Ice Arena expansion as "huge'' to increasing interest in the game.

"We have learned that (in the Tampa Bay area), we are just about at maximum capacity for our current sheets of ice," he said. "It's hard for some teams to find ice time. With more ice, more kids will be able to try the game first hand and then they'll learn to love the game like we do."

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.

   
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