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Youth sports teams left high and dry after ice rink closure in Kent

Posted at 10:44 PM, Oct 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 01:23:31-04

KENT, Ohio — Dozens of paying Northeast Ohio families said the closure of the Kent State Ice Arena caught them off guard.

“It’s all indefinite, unsure,” Brandon Grote said. “So we have no clarity of what the future looks like or where 150 plus kids are going to play hockey.”

The arena was shut down ahead of the City of Kent’s mass gathering ban following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases at Kent State University.

The university issued the following written statement regarding the closure online:

“Due to ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Kent State Ice Arena will be closed until further notice, effective Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, to all users within the university and the general public.

The closing is part of the university’s mitigation strategy to stem the spread of COVID-19 on campus, throughout the larger Portage County community and in the Northeast Ohio region.

The ice arena had not been opened to Kent State students or the general public for fall semester, but was being used by Kent State student organizations, several area high school hockey teams and regional hockey clubs.

Any group that has paid for ice time will be refunded.

Kent State student employees who work at the ice arena will be contacted by their supervisors next week to discuss alternative employment within Recreational Services.”

The Cyclones were just one team utilizing the facility for practice.

“Now you have families driving 80 miles in a night just to get practice time in,” Grote said.

Parents said they have spent a pretty penny on club hockey each season and were left with few options or answers when the rink closed.

“It’s not like you can just head down and hit the courts for basketball or something,” Ryan Schelien said. “We have to find ice and there’s not enough rinks around.”

Parents said they understand the need for slowing the spread of COVID-19, but don’t feel that youth hockey is being offered the same accommodations as other youth sports.

“There’s not ice rinks just around the corner. The next rinks that are closest to Kent State are half an hour, an hour away,” Schelien said. “We’re going out to Wooster, Youngstown.”