From hockey and ice dancers to sled dogs and figure skaters, many consider this place to be the coolest place in town.
It’s the subject of this week’s Tri-State Treasures – Swonder Ice Arena.
The city of Evansville has provided a safe place to ice skate for decades, but it wasn’t until 2002 that Tri-State community members had the opportunity to enjoy the recreational activity year-round.
“It was an indoor facility but they only had one sheet of ice and it was a seasonal facility, so in the summer months around may after the annual ice show and the hockey season was over, they melted that sheet and there was no skating for those summer months,” Swonder Ice Arena General Manager Danielle Crook said, explaining the transformation of the ice arena. “Now here in the new facility we are a two sheet NHL sized facility and we are open year-round.”
Due to that transformation, the history of professional hockey began at the newly transformed Swonder in 2010, which brought with it the emergence of the Evansville IceMen as members of the Central Hockey League, eventually packing up their pads for the Ford Center in 2011.
But even after the icemen’s move downtown, Crook says Swonder experienced an increase in league participation too.
“Our adult hockey leagues tripled in size and are now very active and occupy several of our late nights here at Swonder. Ever since the icemen started here, we’ve seen an increase in adult hockey,” Crook said.
Crook also shared the possibility of hosting professional hockey at Swonder again.
“We are definitely not opposed to it. We welcome any and all hockey leagues that want to try to play here. We have the experience of hosting with the icemen. If that was a need, and something the city felt was a good choice for Evansville, we would be happy to do so,” Crook explained.
Beyond ice hockey, Swonder Ice Arena is home to the Greater Evansville Figure Skating Club, Evansville Youth Hockey, Tri-State Sled Dogs, River City Ice Theatre. Swonder Ice Arena is also the official practice facility of the Evansville Thunderbolts.
The rink welcomes over one million visitors to the property every year. In addition to the dual ice rinks, it takes a lot of leather to keep patrons gliding on the ice.
“1,200 pairs of skates, all sizes, all the way down from toddler and little baby skates, all the way up to a size 14 in mens,” said Crook.
Those looking to get their kids involved in other ice-based activities can count on Swonder during the warmer months too.
“We run a summer day camp in the summer. We take up to 60 kids every week. They skate, go to Wesselman’s, they swim at Hartke Pool. So it’s a really great camp for kids to be active,” explained Crook.
Not only is Swonder’s summer day camp a great place for kids to be active, but it’s also a great way to skip the long lines, as Swonder sees its heaviest traffic from November to February each year.