Skaters of all ages have a new state-of-the-art skating rink on Fort Sill now, thanks to the Army Community Covenant and Community Recreation at Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The rink, located off Randolph Road in front of the Patriot Club, replaced the inline hockey rink, which had fallen into disrepair and was virtually unplayable last year.

MWR invested almost $95,000 to install the new skating rink. The new rink is in large part due to Bill Barwick, chief, Community Recreation, who attended the National Parks and Recreation Association annual conference, where he saw what was needed to replace the old rink.

"Sport Resource Group had a display with a skating rink Ice Court Outdoor surface and the most technologically advanced dasherboards in the industry," said Barwick. "It really impressed me so I started exploring the possibility of replacing the old rink with it. It looks like a state-of-the-art ice court, and it's a completely level surface."

Barwick chose a Sport Resource Group's patent-pending ProWall Rink System measuring 148 feet long by 80 feet wide with two oversized players boxes and a timers box.

Barwick said the old inline hockey rink was put in by a group of volunteers years ago made out of plywood and the skaters used the old tennis court surface.

"Plywood over the years has a tendency to deteriorate and it became an eyesore because it was not maintained and kept up properly," he said. "So we decided we would completely take it out and go back in and not just a tennis court surface but put something on top of that surface that makes it more realistic. We did that and now we have a product that will still be there long after I'm gone. It's got a very long life to it and people should able to utilize that rink for many years to come."

The dasherboards, the wall that encompasses the rink, is made out of polyethylene material so it will stand up to the weather and elements. It meets all the required standards, he said. The flooring is made from a polyethylene type material and it snaps together and resembles ice. It's manufactured to prevent skating roller blades from the slide-out effect and keep the players upright.

"The new rink is fully marked for inline hockey but it can be used for just recreational skating. We really like having the ability to allow the rink to be used for multiple purposes. We intend to play Sharbade, soccer, inline hockey and just recreational roller skating on this wonderful surface and layout," said Barwick.

"We're looking at getting skates for people to check out. The package would include both the quads or traditional skates and the inline roller blades. We're looking at possibly using the Ott House, the old tennis pro shop, as a checkout station so patrons can skate even if they don't have their own skates," he said. "We don't know if there will be a charge to check out skates yet but we do hope to be able to offer skates for patrons to check out."

"We are trying to work with Youth Sports to partner with Community Recreation and Youth Recreation to have skate nights and recreational skating," said Barwick. "Youth Services is also looking at putting together an inline hockey league so we could be competitive with the downtown youth league."

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Martinelli, 6th Brigade Forward, Air Defense Artillery, saw the rink Friday while attending a lunch at the Patriot Club.

"Fort Sill is the last place I would have expected to see a rink of this quality," said Martinelli, who PCS'd from Fort Lewis, Wash. last month. Saturday, Martinelli was on the rink for his first skate and to practice his inline hockey game.

"The rink is absolutely beautiful. I just wish more people knew about it so we could get a game going."

Martinelli said he played inline hockey for 15 years on a league and he would be interested in league play or in coaching a youth hockey league.

The rink is an open facility with no set hours and reservations are not required. There is no cost to use the rink.

For more information about the inline hockey skating rink, call 442-3081 or 442-3269.