You can lace up a pair of skates and glide across the Kiwanis Ice Arena in Saugerties, a glassy-smooth rink, the surface of which is 197 by 85 feet. From mid-August to April, the Arena offers a variety of programs is open to area families, figure skaters and hockey enthusiasts of all ages. Located next to the AYSO soccer fields, and part of the Cantine Memorial Complex on Washington Avenue, this popular ice rink is situated to serve skaters in that gap between the Albany and Poughkeepsie/Newburgh ice rinks.
Manager Rob Kleeman has worked at the rink since it opened in February of 2000. “It’s actually owned and operated by the Town of Saugerties,” he explains. “It carries the Kiwanis name because, back when it all began, some members of the Kiwanis Club thought it would be a good idea that Saugerties had an ice arena. They purchase the boards, the Zamboni, the lobby and other pieces for an arena, and in essence handed it over to the Town and said, ‘We’d like you to build an ice rink.’”
“A few members who played hockey had to drive down to Newburgh or Albany to practice. They saw that there was a void in this area, and that it would be a good idea to add to the Complex. We’re right in the middle between the Albany and Poughkeepsie/Newburgh rinks, a good location for anyone here looking to play hockey or skate. Saugerties is very sports-oriented. The Complex has gotten to where it is because of volunteers in our community.”
Kleeman says that most of the programs, like the youth hockey offerings, start beginners at the age of 4 and offer activities for young people up to senior varsity teams. “The Youth Program runs that. They have their own board and volunteers, and they rent the ice from us for their programs. Also, a skating school/club gives lessons and trains for competitions; they also run their own programs and rent the ice.
“Then we have public recreational skating and drop-in hockey, which is open for anyone who wants to come and play a game, along with sticks and pucks, which is more geared towards someone who wants to do more practice or wants to just try hockey with their son or daughter and practice different skills. Again, that’s open to anybody.”
The Arena runs a men’s league with two divisions of hockey, at A/B levels and C/D levels. “We have 13 men’s teams between the two divisions. Other non-ice-related stuff goes on here, too. The Saugerties wrestling team uses the back room for practice during wrestling season. We also rent a room out for AA meetings seven days a week. And in our training room – a multi-use room of 50 by 60 that can be rented for meetings – we also host dog agility training when they can’t be outside in the winter. Then in the spring they hold a big American Kennel Club agility trial event out on the fields.”
Kleeman was a senior in high school when he started working at the Arena. “I was working at McDonald’s and wanted a better job. I like being outdoors, so I put an application in and started at the bottom. I worked here through college, as the rink started to get busier and busier. I was here almost every night. When I finished college and it was growing so fast, I was offered the job of managing the rink and field. I took some business classes in college, but it was mostly on-the-job training and figuring things out.”
When asked what he likes best about his 18-year career, he says, “Most of the time it doesn’t feel like ‘work.’ I’ve been here for so long and know most of the people well. It’s more like we’re friends, and there is stuff to do, but it just doesn’t feel like work. And when the rink shuts down in the summertime, I get to go out and do the outside work – a balance of both.
The capacity for people on the ice is close to 300, but Kleeman says that’s too many people. “We don’t go that high because it’s too confining. We’ll shut it down around 225. More than that, it’s too crowded and not as enjoyable. And of course there’s music: today’s hits, just general music that hopefully everyone enjoys. With private parties, when they rent the ice they can choose what they want to listen to, within reason. No cursing or anything like that.”
This year the Youth Hockey Association teamed up with the Rangers for a new program that is called the Junior Rangers Program. “When people sign their kids up with the Junior Rangers, they get a full bag of gear. Kids get all the coaching by some Rangers and some local coaches. Once a month they bring in members of the Ranger Alumni to work with the kids. Starting kids at 4 years old – when they’re that age and you put so much gear on them, if they fall down, they don’t hurt themselves; they’re not so prone to quit because they got hurt. They’re wearing so much gear!”
There are four full-size locker rooms, a party room, the off-ice training room, a concession stand with a full menu for hungry skaters and a pro shop. During the off-season from May to mid-July, the Arena hosts off-ice events such as flea markets, fundraisers, parties, camps, expos and festivals.
The schedule for public skating for hour-and-a-half-long sessions begins as early as 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, 10:15 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. Adults pay $7, students and senior citizens skate for $5 and children under 5 get in free.
Learn to Skate and Figure Skating Freestyle classes take place on Saturdays from 2 to 2:30 p.m. People of all ages learn to skate forward and backward, as well as how to stop (always important), turn, cross over, jump and spin. Organized by age and level of experience, these drop-in classes are offered at convenient times. The cost of each includes admission to the public skate immediately following and range from $25 per session to $150 for ten.
Figure skating group classes (four to eight skaters per group) are held on Mondays from 5 to 6 p.m., primarily for skaters with some experience. Come work on your jumps, spins and edge technique. All classes are taught by professional skaters who are members of the US Figure Skating and/or Professional Skaters’ Association. The cost is $25 per class or $265 for the season (15 classes).
And if you really like to skate with a purpose, the drop-in hockey sessions are held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8:15 a.m. For this activity, helmets are a must – no exceptions – and anyone under 18 is required to wear full gear. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students. Sticks-and-pucks sessions are designed to let skaters of any age work on shooting, drills, stick-handling and general skating skills on Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. Same rules, same admission rates as drop-in sessions.
A limited supply of skates, sticks, gloves and helmets can be rented for $3 each, first-come, first-served. Check the website below for complete scheduling of all sessions. For further information about the Saugerties Youth Hockey Program or the Saugerties Skating School, go to the links tab and check out their respective websites.
Kiwanis Ice Arena, 6 Small World Avenue, Saugerties; (845) 247-2590, http://kiwanisicearena.com.