The Amarillo Ice Ranch opens just in time for the hot summer weather
The Amarillo Ice Ranch opened to the public in May 2021 after years of planning.
AMARILLO, Texas -- “It starts with a dream,” Austin Sutter, Executive Director of Amarillo Hockey Association Inc., said. “It all starts with a desire strong enough to obtain something that you really want.”
For Sutter, that dream was the creation of a new ice rink, which is now called the Amarillo Ice Ranch.
Before the Ice Ranch, people went to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex to skate. It hosts a variety of events, such as concerts, rodeos, indoor arena football, trade shows, figure skating, hockey and more. As a result of the high demand for the space and the cost of upkeep, the ice does not stay year-round.
Sutter said the process of starting a new rink took almost seven years of planning, searching, committing and then creating the space. It opened at the end of May and will be open year-round.
The Ice Ranch was built in the Bob Goree Auction House in downtown Amarillo. The Civic Center, just one street over, will continue to host events and have ice for about seven months of the year.
“I think having the two sheets of ice is going to enable us to continue our growth,” Sutter said. “It’s also going to provide people with what they’ve been missing over the last year and a half going through a world pandemic.”
Through a private loan, the rink cost around $1.3 million to start, and it was important to the owners to provide a space for ice sports to grow in the Amarillo area.
Austin Sutter coaches a youth hockey summer camp.
Nick Burney, the assistant rink manager, helped prepare the rink to open over the last year. Now he drives the Zamboni, takes care of any small building maintenance and rents out skates for people who do not have their own.
Burney grew up playing hockey, starting at age four. When he was 12, he played on a team at the Civic Center, but the program went away after only a few months. When Burney graduated high school, he went into the Air Force.
“At a bunch of the bases I was at, they had hockey,” Burney said. “So we had base hockey teams, and we would play downtown in the adult hockey leagues. I did that on and off for 20 years, and then I moved back to Amarillo when I retired.”
Burney got into the adult hockey program in Amarillo and plays the goalie position. Burney said he loves being at the rink, so he was excited to learn about the Ice Ranch and become involved.
Nickey Burney goes over the ice with the Zamboni to make it smooth for the next skaters.
“The biggest key,” said Sutter, “was to find partnerships in the community- whether that was with local businesses, cities, corporations- to put together a plan, and then to execute the plan.”
The Ice Ranch partnered with the city to put in a sheet of ice, and Sutter says it will be there for a long time to come.
With the Amarillo Bulls Hockey Association leaving Amarillo and moving their franchise to North Iowa, he saw an opportunity to purchase a new hockey franchise.
The team, known as the Amarillo Wranglers, will begin playing this upcoming season.
“The North American League and the owners in this division really thought that we were the group to keep hockey here,” Sutter said.
In addition to the NAHL team, the Ice Ranch is home to recreational and competitive hockey leagues for all ages, figure skating, broomball leagues and they are even going to introduce curling.
“Anything that you could do on the ice, we want to provide,” Sutter said.
There are four A League teams and 11 B League teams for adults, and they play 25 games and then have a playoff system. Burney plays on a B League team.
“Our guys couldn't practice in the summer,” Burney said, “So they would have to just do things in their garage.”
They could practice stick handling, and puck maneuvers, but they only had access to the ice for about seven months of the year.
“Now that we (have) this ice all year round, we're (going to) have a summer season,” Burney said.
Joshua Deichert, 18, plays for the Adult B League team called the Golden Knights. He started playing hockey three years ago at the Civic Center.
Joshua Deichert spends time on the new ice during a public skate.
Deichert grew up in Stafford, Virginia, playing street and roller hockey. But it was not until Amarillo that he started playing on the ice.
“I just wanted to get into something new… something that I enjoyed,” Deichert said.
He believes skating takes perseverance and determination and that it is important to get up when you fall, no matter how many bumps or bruises you get.
“The Ice Ranch will provide an experience you’ll never forget,” Diechert said.
Sutter said he hopes they will be building a new rink in five to 10 years, whether that is on the other side of Amarillo or in the surrounding towns, like Lubbock.
“I think that’s very attainable,” Sutter said. “I’d like to see this expand. The passion for ice sports for me doesn’t just stop in Amarillo.”
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