A hidden Southside gem

The Perry Park Ice Rink is open for the season

By Stephanie Dolan

Every neighborhood has a hidden gem; the one thing that makes that area unique and that allows its residents to gather together. Some of these treasures are more well-known than others. Some stay a veritable secret while popularity for others spreads across the region.

On the Southside, one of these resources for fun and community is the Perry Park Ice Rink. Managed by Franklin Township resident, Paul Evans, Perry Park was founded in 1961.

“The rink started as an outdoor rink in the early 70s, and then it was back in the 90s that most of what we have now was built and the final enclosure took place,” Evans said. “There was some interior renovation in 2013. A lot of repainting, and we refreshed the locker rooms and lobby area. They gave it a nice little facelift back in 2013. The most recent we had – our chillers went down two years ago, so we had the opportunity to get new chillers and that’s what we have now.”

The Junior Fuel hosts a Learn-to-Play for kids at Perry Park. (Submitted photo)

Evans admits that there are people living in the area who still don’t know about the rink.

“We are kind of a good secret,” he said. “They’ve come to the pool, but unless they actually come into the building, they may not realize there’s an ice rink back here. So I think just the rink itself is something that people might not know about. It is a full size NHL rink, which means it’s 200 x 85. It gives us a lot of space for public skate, but also allows us to host youth and high school and college hockey and men’s groups and our figure skating group. It gives them a lot of ice to skate on.”

Figure skating

The Sycamore Ice Skating Club hosts all of Perry Park’s Learn to Skate programs, and anyone interested in learning to skate or in figure skating can take lessons through the club.

“Ever since I first started, about 10 years ago, we’ve been primarily based at Perry Park,” coach and Sycamore board member Ellie Schuler said.

Schuler said that one thing she’s noticed about Perry Park is the sense of community and that everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

“It’s definitely a fun atmosphere where they promote skating and everything about it,” she said. “It’s not a competitive rink. It’s all about having fun and enjoying skating.”

Founded in 1982, Sycamore Ice Skating Club includes approximately 50 skaters and their parents.

The Sycamore Ice Skating club hosts all of Perry Park’s Learn-to-Skate programs. (Submitted photo)

“We have club sessions and group lessons on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and then the rink also has a freestyle session for figure skaters, so our skaters are always there those three days and they’re there for other sessions as well.”

Sycamore hosts group Learn-to-Skate lessons for kids on Saturdays from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. along with lessons for adults on Wednesdays from 7:45 – 8:15 p.m.

“I would encourage people to check out Perry Park to see if figure skating or hockey is something they’re interested in,” Schuler said. “I love it, and I’d love other people to give it a shot and see if it’s something they could fall in love with too.”

Hockey games

“For those interested in learning to play hockey, we host a Learn to Play for kids which is run through the Junior Fuel, and then we also host an adult Learn to Play that’s run by a local group,” Evans, a hockey fan, said. “I do not have the grace or coordination for figure skating,” he added, laughing.

Evans has three children, one of whom plays hockey with the Junior Fuel.

“My two boys skate very well,” he said. “My daughter has skated before, but it’s not really her thing. I actually came to the sport rather late. I didn’t learn to skate until I was almost in my 40s, so I haven’t played hockey in a program or whatnot. I play the game on a drop-in session type of thing. Usually I’m too busy for it. Most people are a whole lot better than I am, so I’m still learning.”

“Jacob is quite good, he said. “My other son, Ryan, has played before, but he has diverse interests, so there’s usually too many things going on for him to devote the time.”

Hockey is a popular pastime at Perry Park as noted by hockey coach Kent Hawley.

Hockey is a frequent pastime at the Perry Park Ice Rink. (Submitted photo)

“It’s been my home rink for over 34 years,” he said. “As far as hockey goes, I’ve met several friends there and several great coaches. Hockey is a different world, and I love to always give back when I can. Anyone who knows me knows hockey is my thing, and I’m glad to be able to have the opportunity to coach the kids. It’s more about making these kids into young men and helping them develop into good people.”

Hawley has been coaching for the last seven years.

“In my mind, Perry Park is the greatest rink out there, and I hope to have many more years of coaching kids there.”

Evans also said that there are a lot of other activities offered at the rink.

Community fun

“It’s not just the public skate,” he said. “We recently held a broomball tournament. It’s a lot of fun if you’ve never played before. You don’t have to know how to skate because you’re basically running around on the ice on your tennis shoes. We’re actually starting to launch some programming in the offseason when our ice goes down. We’re starting a floor ball program, which is a variation of floor hockey, but it’s a lot easier for people to learn how to play. It’s great conditioning for hockey players or lacrosse, soccer or basketball players because it involves a lot of hand-eye coordination, and it takes a lot of those elements from different games into it as well. And then we’re really trying to expand our different programing. We have roller derby groups that operate out of here in the summertime. People can come watch a roller derby bout if they’ve never seen one; it is a riot.”

Perry Park Rink is open to the public from 3:45 – 5:15 p.m. Monday, from 3 – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from noon – 2 p.m., 3 – 5 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m. Friday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 3 – 5 p.m. Sunday.

Many people enjoy time with family and friends at Perry Park. (Submitted photo.)

Skate rental is $3; admission is $5 for kids and $6 for adults. Perry Park Ice Rink is located at 451 E. Stop 11 Road, 46227. The phone number is (317) 888-0070.

“Most of our other time is filled up with the figure skating club doing their programming or the various hockey programs that are holding practice or playing games,” he said. “The rink itself is open all year, but we don’t always have ice. We are a seasonal ice rink. We bring the ice in late September, and we put the ice up in mid-to-late March.”

While visitors vary during the skating season, Evans said that there are some die-hard skaters who are ready to go as soon as the ice is down.

“As we get closer to holidays we’ll be very busy,” he said. “During the early and late season things tend to slow down a little bit. But we have people who look forward to the start of skate season and they’re here whether it’s September or March. We’ll see probably over 50,000 people during rink season for skating or playing hockey or watching hockey games.”

Five questions with Paul Evans

  1. How often do you skate? Not as often as I’d like, but as often as I can.
  2. Hockey or figure skating? Not to knock my figure skaters, because I love them. They’re great people. But I’m a hockey guy.
  3. What is your favorite winter Olympic sport? Hockey is obviously my favorite sport. After that, I can really appreciate downhill skiing. Skiing myself and having spent some time in Colorado I can really appreciate how difficult it is.
  4. What is your favorite hockey – or sports – movie? Slapshot is my favorite hockey movie. Probably equal to Miracle. Both different kinds of hockey movies, but both excellent films.
  5. What is your favorite season? Winter. I like to be outside during the winter. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the snow, so I’ll go out and cross-country ski. I’d love to try snow showing. Getting outside and hiking. I love to take the kids sledding. I don’t see the snow as an obstacle to being outdoors.