By Mike Pearson, News staff
After six months of user feedback, the reviews are looking good for the Gateway Ice Centre.
The 128,000 square-foot, three pad facility held a grand opening on Saturday to showcase its three NHL-sized ice rinks, 8,000-square-foot Five-Star Fitness and Nutrition Centre plus a Don Cherry’s Sports Grill with a panoramic rink view.
Gateway co-owner and president Danny Trombetta has heard many positive comments from users so far.
“It’s spectacular. It’s beautiful. Its a go-to destination,” he said.
Located at the corner of South Service and Fruitland roads, the $25-million complex will host the 2014 Esso Cup, which will feature the country’s best midget girls hockey teams next April. Sports tenants include the Stoney Creek Girls Hockey Association, Steel City Hockey Development Program, the Gateway Ice Centre Figure Skating Program and the new Senior AAA expansion franchise, the Stoney Creek Generals. Local fans will get their first opportunity to see the Generals in action when the team faces off for its first preseason game on Oct. 20. The Generals will play the majority of their home games on Sunday afternoons.
Gateway officials are already poised for further expansion. The current three pad complex can be expanded to four. A three-storey commercial addition is also in the works.
Gateway project manager Tony Falasca said the commercial space would be marketed towards sports-related tenants. Falasca’s goals include attracting a hockey development school, sports agency and a sports injury rehabilitation centre. The commercial expansion would also feature a community meeting room.
Trombetta hopes to have the fourth ice pad built by September, 2014.
“We’ll start getting pen to paper and approaching the city,” he said.
Three ice pads have been fully functional since April, and Falasca said demand is strong.
“We have four tournaments booked in four weekends,” he said.
At Saturday’s grand opening, guests had a chance to tour the facility and enter a draw to test drive a luxury sports car. Donations of non-perishable food were collected for the Stoney Creek Community Food Bank. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, the complex received a blessing from Father Martin Vallely from St. Francis Xavier Parish, following by speeches and a figure skating demonstration.
The Gateway Ice Centre Figure Skating Program is led by Amanda Morelli, with programs for youth aged two to 14. Along with recreational and competitive figure skating, other programs include preschool skate, learn to skate, learn to play hockey and pre-figure skating.
Dan Caco is the owner of Steel City Hockey, which includes men’s, women’s and youth league teams. Founded in 1995, Steel City focuses on elite skill development. Gateway will allow Steel City the benefit of year round play for an estimated 200 teams. Caco is also the first head coach of the Stoney Creek Generals.
Gateway’s rink one includes a skybox viewing area, a professional style overhead scoreboard, 7,000 watt sound system and a glassed viewing area from Don Cherry’s Sports Grill. Rink one has a seating capacity of 1,400 in a bowl shape around the ice. Rinks two and three seat 400 each. Bleacher style seating is arranged in two rows with safety glass and netting to protect fans.
Infrared indirect heating is used for climate control, with an oversized dehumidification system to reduce fog in the viewing areas.
Rink two features a rubberized wraparound running track with five sprinting lanes. A pro shop includes skate sharpening and free WiFi access.
Rink three is slightly smaller than the other two NHL-sized surfaces. It is used primarily as a figure skating practice rink.
The building’s main floor includes office space for the Stoney Creek Girls Hockey Association and Steel City Hockey.
Built through a partnership between the Trombetta and the Ferrelli families, the Gateway centre has virtually everything its owners could want, except a big administrative office. Trombetta is making due with a tiny eight by eight foot office, but’s he’s not complaining.
“I’m used to working in small offices,” he said.