WORCESTER – A clean look, fast ice and good location – not to mention, thankfully, no offensive odor – were highlights of the brand new Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center reported by visitors on the facility’s opening day Saturday.
The $18 million practice facility on Harding Street, which will be used by everyone from local peewee hockey teams to Worcester college squads and the city’s newest professional franchise, the Worcester Railers, played host to dozens of youth hockey players and their families Saturday afternoon.
“It’s phenomenal – beautiful,” said Andy Cagan, who was watching his daughter play in a matchup between the Lady Crusaders and the Concord Capitals of the New England Girls Hockey League in one of the 110,000-square-foot center’s two rinks. The Southboro resident will be spending a good amount of time at the facility; his older daughter plays for Worcester Academy’s hockey team – “it’s going to be their home rink” as well, he said.
At the center’s other rink, where the Junior Railers Peewee 3 team was practicing, Junior Railers Bantam 5 coach Rich Haskins also was impressed with the “gorgeous” new facility. Just as important as aesthetics, however, he said, is having a centrally located new practice rink for the region’s many youth teams.
“We scrambled for ice last year,” he said, adding his players usually would play at rinks in Marlboro, Westboro or Auburn. “I think we’re going to be here just about every day.”
Built by Cliff Rucker, who also owns the Railers, the Worcester Ice Center will also be home to several other tenants, including a physical therapy center, a Railers pro shop, and a restaurant and café. Some parents were particularly excited about having a place to grab a meal after practices and games.
“It’ll be so much easier when you finish up here late,” said Jaime Greenwood of Auburn, who was watching the Junior Railers practice Saturday afternoon.
While the trek to Worcester is a little bit longer, she and other parents from communities with existing rinks nearby said getting into the city isn’t too much of a hassle.
“It’s really convenient – right off the highway,” said Christine Doherty, another Auburn resident who was at the Junior Railers practice. It’s also worth the trip to watch the kids in more comfortable environs, she said – “there’s a lot more room here,” compared to the Auburn facility and its “rickety old wooden bleachers.”
“It’s easy to get here, and there’s a lot around,” said Rob Blumberg of Westboro, who was waiting in the lobby for his daughter, a Lady Crusader, to come out of the locker room after Saturday’s game. Nestled in the Canal District at the corner of Harding Street and Winter Street, the facility is surrounded by restaurants and bars.
But perhaps the best feature – albeit probably a temporary one – of the new center, according to many visitors, is that it’s a hockey facility that does not yet smell like one.
“It’s clean, and it doesn’t smell like hockey yet,” said Amy Corradi, a Connecticut resident whose daughter was playing in the Capitals-Lady Crusaders game Saturday.
“Probably the greatest aspect was being able to walk into a hockey locker room, and not having it smell like a hockey locker room,” Mr. Blumberg said.