Jim Thorpe volunteers installing skating rink
A sign hangs along Route 209 at the bottom of the Liberties touting the new ice skating rink at Sam Miller Field in the Heights section of Jim Thorpe. The rink, a kit purchased from EZ ICE of Rhode Island, is expected to be delivered any day now.
An outline of the proposed ice rink is marked off at Sam Miller Field in the Heights section of Jim Thorpe. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
An outline of the proposed ice rink is marked off at Sam Miller Field in the Heights section of Jim Thorpe.
“If you build it, they will come.”
The phrase was made popular in a movie about an Iowa baseball field, but a group of volunteers in Jim Thorpe is getting closer each day to their own “Rink of Dreams.”
By mid-January, the group including Leroy Strohl, Bill and Jamie Solomon, Patricia Brunson, Mike Yeastedt and Dave Gasker hopes to bring ice skating to Sam Miller Field in the form of a 40-by-60-foot expandable rink with rounded corners.
“It’s amazing how much this has taken off,” Brunson said. “I think we sent letters out a week or two before Christmas and the response is incredible. I just think it’s something the area really needs and it will be wonderful for the children. Many people have to travel to Bethlehem or somewhere else if they want to go to an ice-skating rink. Now they’ll have this opportunity much closer to home.”
The rink has been ordered and the volunteers expect it to be delivered this week or early next week. Upon delivery, the group will be hard at work starting the assembly process.
“We’re hoping the weather cooperates,” Bill Solomon said. “We have to freeze 10,000 gallons of water so you need about 4-5 days of really cold weather to be able to get this set up and going.”
Initial plans call for the rink to be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but volunteers said if there is interest and the weather cooperates, Monday through Thursday skating is a possibility.
“For example if it rains all weekend and people want to skate Monday or Tuesday, that can be an option,” Yeastedt said.
Ice conditions can be checked daily on the Sam Miller Field Facebook page.
The price point will be an attractive one.
“We are not going to charge,” Strohl said. “We’ll happily take donations.”
Since the group announced plans for the rink on social media, interest has steadily increased to the point that, as of Tuesday, it had reached 40 percent of its $15,000 fundraising goal.
Anyone interested in donating funds for the rink can get in touch with the group through one of its Facebook pages, “Sam Miller Field” or “Jim Thorpe Winter Rink: Reality!”
The first donor was the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“We contacted them when we first started toying with the idea and they called us back within 48 hours,” Brunson said. “They were really excited to be a part of this.”
A rink dedication will likely be scheduled for March with the Phantoms mascot and players attending, the group said.
The group also sent over 100 letters to area businesses and others who expressed interest in a rink within the community.
It has kept people updated on the status of the rink through social media. Its Facebook group stands at 272 members as of Thursday.
The excitement of members of the Facebook group has been palpable.
“I still have my mother’s old skates,” posted Joan Morykin. “She died in 1997. I can’t wait to wear my mom’s old skates and teach my two daughters (who were born well after she died) how to ice skate with those beautiful white ice skates. I love this project.”
The group is also looking for people to donate skates they no longer use or that no longer fit them.
“We need all the help we can get to make this successful,” Jamie Solomon said. “People have been scattering to find skates and buy supplies for the rink. We’re looking for volunteers to help in whatever capacity they can.”
On Thursday, Bill Solomon posted on Facebook that the group will be looking for people to, “come with a rake and make sure the ground is free of sticks, stones and other stuff that will hurt the liner.”
“Feel free to go to the field anytime and rake,” he added. “The size of the rink is lined out.”
The vision goes beyond general ice skating. A rounded rink leaves the possibility for hockey games and talk of a pee-wee hockey league has started if the interest is there. The rink will also be available for birthday parties, etc.
“If we can find people to give lessons, we’ll do that,” Brunson said.
There will also be fire pits, and lights will make night skating possible.
Sam Miller Field has been an ice skating mecca before in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. In fact, Jamie Solomon skated there and is looking forward to passing the tradition down.
“To be able to see my children and grandchildren out there, it really is a miracle,” she said. “I have called it our Rink of Dreams.”