Lakeland’s soon-to-open first ice arena will be new, but all of its tables, benches and bar tops harken to history; they are repurposed from the wooden lanes of the bowling alley that used to occupy the building on Memorial Boulevard near I-4.
The story goes that Joe Blanton, a former president of Publix Super Markets, built the bowling alley for his bowling-enthusiast daughter, Kay. Lakeland Ice Arena owner Paul Granville wanted to represent the history of the building by using each of the 40 lanes in the former bowling alley as materials for his new ice rink.
“The coolest one is the one that we call our center ice table, which is our largest table in the building,” Granville said. “It’s made of lane 22, which is the lane that Kay Blanton Wentworth got married on. So we kept the lane here, and I made table out of it.”
From the contemporary-rustic décor to the full bar to the workstations with free wifi, there is an emphasis on welcoming the public to the arena, 3395 W Memorial Blvd., Granville said.
Granville anticipates opening the weekend after Labor Day, but is not declaring an exact date or whether public skating will be offered yet when it opens.
The building and land were purchased last year from Wentworth for $1.35 million by Memorial Interstate Properties LLC.
Granville and his family moved to Lakeland from Plant City about 18 months ago. He and his wife, Nanette, are parents to Jackson, 9, a promising hockey player, who was coached by Vincent Lecavalier, a former professional hockey player. The Granvilles owned a business in Plant City and were moved to open the arena after watching their son’s interest in hockey blossom.
They also became acquainted with Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Through being around the Lightning and seeing how many kids wanted to play and how limited the sheets of ice to play — so many kids don’t get the chance to play,” Granville said. “We wanted to bridge the gap between Tampa and Orlando by bringing an arena to Lakeland.”
Lakeland Ice Arena stands as the only sheet of ice in Polk County, Granville says. After looking at several buildings around the Tampa area, he was repeatedly drawn to Polk County, where he knows there are a lot of kids who play hockey.
He said transforming a bowling alley to an ice arena has been fun from day one. A lot of the areas in the 50,000-square-foot building are large enough to create spaces that can accommodate all of his ideas. Some of those ideas, on the verge of fruition, include:
- Multiple locker rooms, one for the referees
- An embedded pro shop called Rinkside Sports that sells equipment
- A fan zone viewing area specifically for Florida Southern College fans called Snakepit
- An indoor ball-hockey room
- Two conference slash party rooms
- A concession stand called Sweet Tooth
- Stanley’s Pizza
- An American-food restaurant called Celly’s
- A game room
- A full bar, which will seat 120.
The individual workstations are for kids to do their homework, Granville said, but they’re also for the parents to work while their kids are practicing.
Tampa Bay Lightning will host programming here, including instruction on skating and hockey, he said.
The arena will be home to in-house recreational hockey and travel hockey, including the Lakeland Royals and the George Jenkins High School team.
George Jenkins High School is about to play its first hockey home game after having a team for 15 years and not once playing in Lakeland, Granville said.
The arena also will be home to Florida Southern College’s new hockey team, which will be coached by Lakeland Ice Arena’s hockey director.
“They have their own dedicated locker room just for them, and their games will be played on Saturday nights,” he said. “They will play some of the biggest schools in Florida.”
The Mocs will compete against the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida, and Stetson University teams, with games scheduled for Saturday nights. Admission is free with a public skate offered with the team after the games.
Once public skate is available, its price tag will be $12, including skate rental.
“It’s important for the rink to be part of the community,” Granville said. “We want to invite children and adults to a safe environment to just have fun, from everything from first skating to date night at the rink.”
Besides planning for a 14,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion and an outdoor ball-hockey rink, Granville wants to add another sheet of ice in the future.
“Our goal is to be a tournament destination,” Granville said. “Our location is a perfect place for Tampa and Orlando to be in the middle on neutral territory.”
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