The rebranded ice rink in Holland hosted a grand reopening early this season.
Story by Mark Newman / Photo by Sam Iannamico
It’s not every day that a professional hockey team shows up in a neighborhood ice rink.
But the Grand Rapids Griffins did just that when the team staged an Oct. 29 open house and practice as part of their grand reopening of Griff’s IceHouse West, formerly the Edge Ice Arena.
The event served the dual purpose of reintroducing the rink to the community as well as showcasing the Griffins team to the lakeshore, approximately one year after the facility was purchased by DP Fox Ventures, LLC, owners of the AHL team.
“We believe in hockey and we believe in investing in the community,” said Dan DeVos, Griffins co-owner and CEO. “The building’s previous owners approached us because they wanted to find someone who would continue the tradition of providing hockey in the Holland community, and we felt it was important for us to step up and make it happen.”
DeVos admits that there was a small personal incentive, given that his son Cole plays for the Hope College team that calls the rink home.
“As an organization, we felt we could bring our experience to the building’s operation and bring the facility up to the next level,” DeVos said. “There was a little tweaking that needed to be done, whether it was adding a new coat of paint or improving the overall ice surface.”
A large crowd was present for the rink’s rechristening as fans watched the Griffins practice then met the players afterward for autographs. Fans also had the opportunity to take photos with the Calder Cup while enjoying complimentary hot dogs, popcorn and soda during the free event.
Griffins President Tim Gortsema said the team appreciates the support of the lakeshore over the years and that Griff’s IceHouse West is a way to strengthen ties with the community.
“It gives us an opportunity to more effectively market the Griffins to the lakeshore directly through hockey players, teams and families in an area where we did not have a presence before,” Gortsema said.
The IceHouse is the current home to the West Ottawa High School hockey team as well as Hope College, in addition to hosting a number of tournaments each year. With two NHL-size hockey rinks, the facility is also the base for the Holland Hockey Association. Known as the Holland Ice Dogs, the youth program sponsors a number of teams ranging from entry-level Mites to the more advanced Bantam players.
Gortsema said the Griffins worried that closing the rink would have created “a significant void” in the market, so the organization jumped at the chance to help inject new blood into the facility.
The purchase of the building represented a significant investment, but there was also considerable deferred maintenance that added substantially to the cost. “It was not a surprise,” Gortsema said. “We knew that we would have to appropriately invest in the facility to raise the operating standards to a level we felt was necessary.”
The rink’s ice surfacing machines were completely overhauled, but most of the improvements involved “back of the house” mechanicals not visible to the public: compressors, fans and the like. “There were a number of equipment improvements that had to be done,” Gortsema said. “We also made considerable cosmetic improvements, from signage outside the building to the inside lobby and viewing areas.”
New heaters above the stands and theater-type seating in the viewing areas above the two rinks add to the fans’ comfort. Motivational quotes from famous hockey players add a professional flavor to the lobby walls. Additional improvements are planned for the team locker rooms.
While the Oct. 29 practice was a one-off event, Gortsema said the Griffins organization would like to find some kind of annual event to keep the lakeshore fans engaged with the team.
DeVos believes Griff’s IceHouse West will be a win-win for everyone.
“We appreciate the support that lakeshore hockey fans have shown for the Griffins, so this is a chance for us to showcase the sport right in their backyard,” he said.