Originally created 04/23/98

Augusta gets ice skating rink



The IceForum cometh.

The owner of two suburban Atlanta ice skating rinks will open a third facility on Augusta West Parkway, next to the Augusta West shopping center between Wheeler and Wrightsboro roads.

The rink will be called Augusta IceForum, and construction is scheduled to begin in early May. The full-service facility will offer public skating, hockey classes and leagues, figure skating classes and private lessons. It also will serve as the practice home of the Augusta Lynx minor-league hockey team.

The IceForum is tentatively set to open October 1.

"We had considered building a rink in Augusta several years ago, long before we even knew a hockey team was coming," said IceForum president and founder Jack Burton, who purchased the land from Amli Land Co., an Atlanta-based real estate company that developed Augusta West. "The demographics were just right for this, and now that the Lynx are coming, it's obviously going to make things even better."

Capers and Associates of Augusta will build the facility, and construction will take about 19 weeks. The cost of the rink and land is estimated at about $3 million.

Mr. Burton, who has operated rinks in Gwinnett and Cobb Counties since 1989, said several other sites, including the new Augusta Exchange shopping center off Wheeler Road, were considered.

In the end, he favored the high-traffic area of Augusta West, which is about 1/4 mile from Augusta Mall.

In the months that followed the news that the East Coast Hockey League team would move from Raleigh, N.C., and begin play in Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center in October, Lynx general manager Paul Gamsby was concerned about a rink being built in time for the 1998-99 season.

After much uncertainty, he was thrilled to hear it was finally a done deal.

"The big winner is the community," said Mr. Gamsby, who recently signed a 10-year contract with IceForum, guaranteeing ice time at the facility through 2008. "We need an auxiliary rink when the civic center is in use, but this is more than just great for the Lynx. The people of Augusta are really going to benefit."

The IceForum will open be 365 days a year and feature an NHL regulation-size ice rink, a full service snack bar with fireplace, pro shop, video games, skate sharpening and repair service, skate rentals, spectator seating, and locker rooms with showers.

In addition to hockey, Mr. Burton promises a top-rate figure skating program, led by director Donald Laws, who coached former Olympic and world champion Scott Hamilton.

"A minor league team in town makes the chances of this being a huge success even bigger," said Mr. Burton, a certified public accountant and native New Yorker. "It's a good match because we're going to be offering developmental hockey leagues for children and adults, and the team presence in Augusta will show people what hockey is all about. We'll be great for each other and both will be great for Augusta."

For more information, check out the IceForum website at www.iceforum.com.