Palatine ice arena ready for grand opening in former Orbit roller rink

 
 
Updated 12/7/2018 5:21 PM
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  • Chicago Young Americans President Jason Ori shows off the organization's Orbit Ice Arena in Palatine, which holds a grand opening Saturday. The arena is in the same building where Orbit Skate Center operated for 46 years until closing in March.

      Chicago Young Americans President Jason Ori shows off the organization's Orbit Ice Arena in Palatine, which holds a grand opening Saturday. The arena is in the same building where Orbit Skate Center operated for 46 years until closing in March. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Orbit Skate Center's old wooden roller rink was repurposed as a bar and tables in the restaurant viewing area at what's become Orbit Ice Arena owned by the Chicago Young Americans youth hockey organization.

      Orbit Skate Center's old wooden roller rink was repurposed as a bar and tables in the restaurant viewing area at what's become Orbit Ice Arena owned by the Chicago Young Americans youth hockey organization. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago Young Americans President Jason Ori heads onto the ice at the Orbit Ice Arena in Palatine.

      Chicago Young Americans President Jason Ori heads onto the ice at the Orbit Ice Arena in Palatine. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Jason Ori, who heads the Chicago Young Americans, shows off a new home team locker room at the organization's Orbit Ice Arena in Palatine. The rink will host a grand opening celebration Saturday.

      Jason Ori, who heads the Chicago Young Americans, shows off a new home team locker room at the organization's Orbit Ice Arena in Palatine. The rink will host a grand opening celebration Saturday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Orbit Skate Center's 46 years as a roller rink in Palatine aren't forgotten in a building where a grand-opening bash will be held Saturday for its new life as an ice arena owned by a top-tier youth hockey organization.

Visitors will see how part of the wooden roller rink was repurposed for the bar and tables in the restaurant area of the Chicago Young Americans' Orbit Ice Arena. Other reminders of the roller days also remain, such as the Orbit Skate Center sign on the building's wall fronting Consumers Avenue across the street from Arlington Park racecourse.

Fred Hektor, who served as general contractor for the renovation as owner of Deerfield-based FHH Construction Management Co., said it was proper to incorporate bits of the old roller rink into the new ice arena. Orbit Skate Center opened in 1972 and closed in March.

"We basically saved the large sections of the floor. ... We kind of kept the old floor as a memory of the old building," Hektor said.

It'll be a big-league atmosphere when the Young Americans officially unveil their new home at 1 p.m. Saturday. Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelison will perform as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the Young Americans host rival Team Illinois from Woodridge in a game for elite players 10 and younger.

Other highlights include an appearance by Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz and a ceremonial puck drop, along with catered food, beverages and a band. Guests, who can watch the action from the restaurant near the rink, will get to see the arena's permanent laser system, fog machines and spotlights that will be used when the players hit the ice.

"You go to a rink, it's just, 'There's your start time and go and warm up,'" Chicago Young Americans President Jason Ori said. "Here, we just want to make it special for the kids. Give them the production.

"But it's also the memories that you get. You look back at your youth hockey years and either you had a lot of fun or it was just all right. And we want to make sure that, one, the kids are being trained properly here, because that's what we do. And, two, that they're having just a phenomenal time. Fun is a big part of what we do here."

Co-founded in 1982 by Ori's father, Joe, the Young Americans are a Tier 1 AAA hockey organization for players 9 to 18 years old with a reputation for sending boys and girls to junior, college and professional levels. Young Americans alumni include former Chicago Blackhawks goaltenders Scott Darling and Craig Anderson.

While the arena just east of Northwest Highway and Route 53 is the Young Americans' home, Ori said, it'll double as a community venue for youth hockey players from Palatine, Arlington Heights and other nearby suburbs who are not in the organization for games, camps and clinics.

Ori said it cost about $4.5 million for the conversion to Orbit Ice Arena. Working with Kennedy Mann Architecture of Chicago, crews began removing the wooden roller rink and gutting the interior in May, followed by installation of a refrigeration system for a state-of-the-art National Hockey League-sized ice surface.

Warm September weather prolonged the rink-making process. It took about three weeks to get 3½ inches of ice to hold, Hektor said. NHL-quality boards and seamless glass were installed to complete the rink that began receiving play in a soft opening in October.

There also will be attention to detail in the restaurant end of the operation. Once a permit is obtained, Ori said he will have a quality menu -- not concession items -- with hamburgers, pizza and other selections.

"Since we did this here, we're going to do everything right," he said. "So, the food is going to be right. The entertainment is going to be right. The training is going to be right."

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