Welcome home – or at least that’s the feeling you want every ice facility to evoke when a player/coach/parent/official/skater/curler—whomever—steps foot inside the doors. Arenas can range from top-of-line multipurpose facilities that include some of the most unique amenities, all the way to your basic hockey barn with little more than bleachers, a sheet of ice and a concession stand.

Whatever you desire, we can make it happen. But before we embark on designing YOUR perfect ice facility, let’s take a stroll down frozen memory lane and take a look at how ice rinks have evolved and changed throughout the course of time.

In the beginning…

Those who live in the colder climates of the Midwest to the east coast know, all you really need to skate is a frozen body of water thick enough to hold you (and the buddies you’re playing with).

Still, roofs and walls are nice.

Oh, Canada

Hockey’s homeland, Canada, hosted the first-ever organized indoor game of hockey at the Victoria Skate Rink in 1875. Again, things were kept simple and pure. The rink consisted of one sheet of ice, roughly 85 ft. by 200 ft, a size which was quickly adopted to be the standard NHL-sized sheet. Victoria Skate Rink had above the ice seating as well as standing room along the ice sheet. One missing component that has become synonymous with ice rinks today? Boards.

Building for a Year-Round Experience

As the NHL’s popularity grew, so did the facilities housing them. Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden and Chicago Stadium were erected to great fanfare. But it wasn’t just hockey and the NHL stage aiming to impress. Indoor skating popularity grew as a whole, and so did the concepts in order to equip skaters with a year-round experience instead of the traditional seasonal idea. In the 1950s, strip malls and shopping centers configured sheets of ice in order to provide patrons with a unique opportunity.

Ice Capades and skating shows drew a new audience beyond just hockey, so Olympic-sized sheets of ice and different styles of changing rooms and off-ice studios became more popular.


Today’s ice arenas…

As ice sports as a whole continue to grow and expand across the nation, so do the designs to host them.

No longer are rinks tucked back away in an industrial park—they are now being built at the heart of commercial areas and become hubs of activity.

Skating is a family activity. Whether it’s hockey or figure skating, if one person is involved, the whole family is involved. With that in mind, rinks have been adding non-ice activities to their facilities that appeal to all members of the family.

At HTG in particular, we have been adding workout spaces, dry-land training areas, study rooms, meeting rooms, party rooms and more to the various facilities we’ve had the privilege to work on. In addition to "play" amenities, we’ve seen the desire to “raise the bar” on the food offerings, so the popcorn and hotdog concession stand has developed into themed restaurant/bars, specialty coffee shops and wood-fired pizza. Everything you could want to feed your hunger (literally and figuratively) is now available in one gorgeous spot.

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Recretainment: Connecting Recreation and Entertainment

A term we coined here at HTG is “recretainment”. The word reflects the trend to connect recreation and entertainment. It’s a word we are proud to use and utilize in our facilities, and one we see more and more ice arena projects getting behind and including.

 One prime example of our recretainment push is evident in a current project we are working in where a curling rink is the driving force behind a project that includes a bar/restaurant, food court, a young adult entertainment center and meeting rooms.

Emphasis on Entertainment 

While the primary factor to be considered in today’s facilities is of course an emphasis on the entertainment portion, we’re seeing a shift and focus on workspaces and meeting rooms as well. This particular project was designed with family appeal and corporate events in mind. As we all know, filling ice time during the work/school day is tough; if you can attract corporate events, these revenues go right to adding to profit.

 Investing in Locker Room Facilities

One other trend we have seen is the improvement to locker room facilities. Today there is A LOT of competition to attract young athletes to skating programs. And, let’s face it, families invest a lot of time and money in these activities. So, we have to ask: what do the athletes see and experience in the locker room facility? Is it the old model where they are small, cramped, and smelly? Our new locker rooms have more space, individual lockers, excellent ventilation, and clean restroom/showers. We have also been adding in small locker rooms to accommodate girls who may be part of a boys/girls mixed team which has been tremendous as the sport continues to grow.

The last word…

Ultimately, understanding how ice rink design has evolved over the years is helpful in determining which design choices will support your vision for your ice arena. Whatever your vision may be—hey it could be a mix of traditional and modern—we’re here to help. We look forward to helping you and your community!


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Published on December 01, 2020

Topics: HTG Architects, Ice Arena Architecture, Rink Design, Community, hockey, Figure Skating, Ice, Recreation, Indoor Sports Complex, Recreation Center

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