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Brookings Home Ice Advantage

February 6, 2014, 4:55 PM by Perry Groten

Brookings Home Ice Advantage
BROOKINGS, SD -

The town of Brookings has been able to skate clear of the crunch for indoor ice-time that's left other communities out in the cold. 

The Larson Ice Center opened in 2002 at a cost of $7-million paid through public and private funds. It features two NHL-size ice rinks and a wide range of users, from youth hockey to a junior league team, to high school broomball players.

The allure of ice is sweeping through Brookings. 

"It hurts, but you get back up and keep going, that's the whole fun of it," senior Tyler Hartman said.

A gym class from Brookings High School is able to book broomball time at the Larson Ice Center smack in the middle of the school day.

"And so we want them to learn how to enjoy winter here. If we're going to have winter here, let's have fun with it," gym teacher Vonda Bjorklund said.

Next door, players with the Brookings Blizzard hold their daily practice. The ice center is an ideal venue for players to showcase their talents in front of fans and college scouts.

"I think it's a fantastic center.  In our league, it's one of the best rinks in our league. The sound is great, the atmosphere is great, the ice is really good and we get all the ice in the morning we need to develop our guys so we're really happy with that," Blizzard Head Coach Cory Laylin said.

The popularity of hockey keeps growing in Brookings, in part, because of the ice center.

"I think it's a basketball and a football community, but I think people that have come out, they've really enjoyed the games," Laylin said.

The building is only 12 years old, but already experiencing some growing pains.

"There are a few user groups we have to turn away occasionally just because of the use of the facility. Like our practice times for example on the weekdays, we go until 11:00 p.m. and if somebody wants ice at 6:00 on a Tuesday night, we have to tell them no, because the time is already booked," Ice Center Manager Bill de Blonk said.

But, for a spacious two-rink facility, growing demand is a good problem to have.

"It's really nice to be able to split it up between two sheets," de Blonk said.

The Larson Ice Center replaced a single-sheet rink that was often open until 2:00 in the morning to accommodate skaters.

The Larson Center is waiting for parts to arrive to repair a couple of heaters that broke down during last week's bitter cold.  But the ice center has remained opened, despite being a little cooler than usual inside.

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