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Addition of adult staff and more organized games to keep kids busy will prevent fights, other issues that arose in past

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Duane GarnerWinter can feel really long sometimes. For me, January and February are my least favorite months of the year. The excitement of the holidays are over, and it just feels cold and blah. In the summer, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to go on and things to do, but what is there to do when it's freezing cold outside?

The Prineville Skate Rink has been a tradition for a very long time around here. What is now the Pioneer School Gym (it used to be the Crooked River Elementary Gym) has come alive every fall and winter and provided old-fashioned fun for generations now. With that said, the Skate Rink has had its share of issues. Last year was an especially difficult season, with fights breaking out and things going on that shouldn't happen. I had to ask myself, "Would I feel comfortable dropping off my kids here and trust that this environment is a good place for them to be?" Sadly, the answer was no. It's not that we had bad staff working there, it's just not the easiest place to keep control of. You have a high concentration of kids who have been cooped up all week, we hype them up on sugar, put wheels on their feet and expect them to behave. Combine that with the fact that the ones in charge are not much older than the ones skating, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why this can be problematic. For that reason, Eli, our recreation supervisor, and I have been very hesitant to open this year. Typically, we open the Skate Rink soon after school starts for the season, but this year, that has not been the case. We needed some time to rethink how this place is managed and to come up with a new plan. I didn't like the idea of permanently closing the skating rink, but I wasn't willing to do a repeat of last year. If we are going to provide a youth-oriented program, we need to make sure it is run with excellence and it is a place that parents can feel confident that there is no monkey business going on.

Opening night was Friday, Jan. 10, and I am encouraged that this year will be noted as one where positive change took place. We have some wonderful ADULT staff keeping tabs on things, as well as some fantastic young people helping out, too. We are providing a lot more organized games and keeping the place hopping with fun and excitement. This is not a place to come hang out and cause trouble; this is now a family-oriented program where everyone is welcome and wholesome values are implemented. We encourage parents to stick around and make it a family night together, but if you want a night off, you don't need to worry about what's going on at the Skate Rink. You can rest assured that your kids will have a great time and come home tired. At least once per month, we will have a themed party night and make it extra special. For now, we are only open on Friday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., but you can also book a private party on Saturday and Sunday.

We are also booking birthday parties that include specialized activities as well. We have partnered with Meandering Makers if you would like to have a crafting party. Or you can book a party at the Ochoco Gym that includes our staff playing gym games with the kids such as basketball, soccer, dodgeball and even archery tag. You bring the cake and ice cream, and we bring the games!

Let us know if you have other party ideas — we would love to keep adding to the collection!

Just a side note: If you are planning an event in one of the parks, we now have an enclosed trailer full of round folding tables and white folding chairs that you can rent. There are enough to seat over 200 people.

Stay warm and stay active this winter!

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