BREWER — The ice is cold, the skating is hot and the excitement is building at Penobscot Ice Arena, a regulation indoor rink located at 90 Acme Road.
Since purchasing the arena in late September, George and Linda Bishop have extensively renovated the facility to provide a great experience for hockey players, skaters and fans, Linda said.
The Bishops own Penobscot Cleaning Services in Brewer and live in Clifton. Daughter Janessa skates at Penobscot Ice Arena in a U12 girls’ hockey team coached by George Bishop, who also manages there a Learn to Skate Learn to Play program for Brewer Youth Hockey. He plays on a local men’s hockey league.
And grandson Aidan participates in the Learn to Play program.
“We were in here all the time,” Linda said during a facility tour. “We saw the opportunity to create a more community feeling at the rink. We’ve been in business [with Penobscot Cleaning Services] for 24 years. We know a lot of people in the area and [in] the hockey community.
“We felt we would have a lot of support,” she said.
The Bishops immediately started renovating Penobscot Ice Arena. Completed improvements include:
• Fully renovated locker rooms, with all ceiling tiles and benches replaced and the showers cleaned and re-tiled;
• Construction of a new girls’ locker room and a new girls’ bathroom;
• Full insulation of the north wall behind the locker rooms;
• Electrical and plumbing systems updated to meet Brewer construction codes;
• Emergency exits and lighting updated to meet Brewer fire codes.
During next spring’s six-week maintenance shutdown at Penobscot Ice Arena, the Bishops will replace all the existing boards with “a used set … in very, very good shape … coming out of a [remodeled] Saco rink,” Linda said. The newer boards will feature tempered glass rather than the plexiglas found in the existing boards.
The Bishops redesigned and updated the arena’s warming room, which will be sponsored by the Bangor Daily News. The room now features a fireplace, coaches, arcade games, tables and chairs, and Steve’s Family Concessions, a concession stand operated by Steve Gott. He owns Steve’s Family Restaurant in Brewer.
Before buying the arena, the Bishops had ABM Mechanical technicians examine the building’s chiller. “You have to have the chiller operating properly,” Linda said. “Without the chiller, you don’t have ice.”
The chiller was working to perfection on a recent sunny, but cool December morning. The temperature at the rink’s surface hovered between 12 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and elsewhere the arena’s temperature hovered between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Frosty breaths were evident.
The Bishops also made sure the heating system was working properly, Linda said. “We had Dead River Company come in and check out the system,” she said.
Although Penobscot Ice Arena had a Zamboni, George Bishop purchased from a municipal rink in Michigan a Zamboni that had been maintained very well, Linda said. Fisher Industries and Bangor Truck Equipment sponsored the Zamboni and wrapped it in yellow paint with a colorful advertising scheme.
Afternoons and evenings can be busy at the arena. “There’s quite a few people who use this rink,” Linda said during a facility tour. Current estimates see more than 200,000 people passing through the arena each year.
The arena is “home ice” for the Brewer High School hockey team, which practices there, and Brewer Youth Hockey runs several programs for young skaters and hockey players. Some 150 children participate in the youth hockey programs. Maine Freeze travel teams also use Penobscot Ice Arena, and adult leagues attract approximately 270 skaters.
“We want to do more public skate times,” Linda said. “I think there are families in the area [that would bring their children for public skating].”
“We want to sponsor some tournaments here, like a full weekend tournament with local teams and teams from southern Maine and Massachusetts,” she said. “We possibly could charge admission when we run a tournament, just to help with the costs of maintaining the facility.”
The Bishops are studying the possibility of sponsoring some junior teams here, Linda said. “They’re up and coming young players,” she said. These players often play Canadian and New England teams that travel long distances to meet in regional tournaments.
Brewer is about halfway for a lot of these teams, according to Linda. “That would be huge, having junior teams play here,” she said.
She discussed the potential economic benefits offered by hockey tournaments of all types. Teams would stay in local motels and dine in local restaurants, Linda pointed out, and parents who accompany tournament-bound teams might shop in local stores.