Anchorage community’s effort to rebuild Bayshore Elementary ice rink is nearing its goal

What do you get when you cross a nurse with a hockey mom?

A resuscitated rink.

When Lee Twait, a longtime nurse at Providence Alaska Medical Center, found out in July the dilapidated ice rink at Bayshore Elementary School was scheduled to be torn down, she was dismayed.

“I just kinda went nuts when I read that email,” she said.

Her children, daughter Marlee, 14, who attended Bayshore from kindergarten to sixth grade, and son Austin, 11, a fifth grader at the school, learned to skate on the rink. And with the COVID-19 pandemic causing pandemonium, it was especially disheartening to be losing one of the few places children could go when schools closed and recreational opportunities were shut down.

“Oh, my gosh, during this time of COVID, when the kids can’t even go to school,” Twait recalled.

So the 21-year Providence employee got to work. She made phone calls and sent emails to find out how to put the brakes on the demolition.

After contacting the Anchorage School District and the Bayshore principal, she met with various officials at the school to discuss the situation. At the meeting, ASD maintenance supervisor Bryan Stenehjem put his foot through some of the rink’s decaying boards to demonstrate they were beyond repair.

“He walked around, you know, showed where the rotten boards were, showed, you know, the cracked asphalt, he just said that it’s unsafe for the kids,” Twait said.

“And he said, ‘The school district, as much as we’d like to replace the rink, we just don’t have the funds to do that.’ "

The school district gave Twait the go-ahead to seek alternative funding for the estimated $100,000 needed to build a new rink, and she found help in the neighborhood.

“The district’s been working with us really well,” said Rob Larkey, a Bayshore resident and former UAA hockey player now teaching and coaching at West High.

Derek Tannahill, a civil engineer and another Bayshore resident, also jumped on board. Fundraising efforts, connections and blueprints were soon being made.

Twait started a GoFundMe campaign, wrote grants and created a Facebook page.

Larkey reached out to people who would recognize the value in having a rink in the community of roughly 450 homes.

And Tannahill took an inventory of what would be necessary in terms of logistics — primarily, detailed drawings, materials and labor.

The payoff: The Rasmuson Foundation awarded a grant, the Alaska State Hockey Association made a contribution, and a donation was made out on behalf of Lewis Day, a former Bayshore principal in the late 1970s and ’80s.

More than 75 people and 30 businesses have made donations ranging from $10 to tens of thousands of dollars, Twait said.

There were “A lot of people donating, volunteering and doing the work,” Larkey said.

Meanwhile, Tannahill and Larkey were looking for help in reducing costs, and they found it.

The Alaska Labors Training School offered to do the earthwork and concrete foundation for the boards. McKenna Brothers Paving, Spenard Builders Supply and Quality Asphalt and Paving agreed to assist. And Lynden Transport signed off on shipping the rink boards up from the Lower 48.

Twait, however, recognized another hurdle — you can’t just buy a rink on Amazon.

“I’d been shopping for rinks, and you know, that’s kind of a difficult thing to do, because we don’t have a store up here where you can buy ice rinks,” she said.

She found a company in Minnesota that manufactures boards for outdoor rinks, and construction should begin in April or May — “soon as we get the snow out of there,” she said.

Additional funding is being sought to cover the remaining construction costs, future rink maintenance and ice-surfacing expenses. A fundraiser will be held from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Texas Roadhouse in South Anchorage, which is giving 10% of all dine-in and takeout sales to support the cause.

If the group meets its timeline, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony this summer — and kids on the ice next winter.