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Sherwood leaders lobby Gov. Brown to make exception allowing ice rink to reopen, citing facility's attention to safety.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Alyssa DeTurk, a longtime employee and former skating director at the Sherwood Ice Arena, said the closure of the facility is personal to her since her grandparents, Jan and Brent Birkemeier of Tigard, were the ones who built the arena and ran it with partners Steve and Denise Prince.After two decades serving the skating needs of Sherwood and the entire region, Sherwood Ice Arena has shut its doors, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Owner Roy macMillan said he purchased the facility in January from the original owners, who opened the facility in 2000.

MacMillan said before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the arena was able to establish a hockey academy and serve the needs of area ice-skating enthusiasts in the 40,000 square foot facility.

Like other businesses throughout the state, the Sherwood Ice Arena shut down following Gov. Kate Brown's executive order last March. It later opened for a brief time several months later but ended up being told to shut down again, even though macMillan said the arena had implemented stringent safety protocols.

MacMillan said the final straw was when the state shut down businesses again on Dec. 17.

"The state told us we were supposed to be close, came in one evening and said, 'If you don't close immediately, it's a $70,000 a day (fine),'" said macMillan, who has owned and operated Sherwood's Growler House since 2015.

MacMillan said he thought they had addressed all the necessary safety concerns that would allow them to remain open.

"During the period of time since March, we had 17,000-plus people through here and we never had one single COVID case related to the facility," macMillan said. "We had a protocol, better than the state's, on contact tracing."

He laid off 17 employees the week before Christmas.

Besides the Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton, a development facility for the Portland Winterhawks that also offers public skate times, the Sherwood Ice Arena is the only ice-skating facility of its kind in Washington County.

On Monday, Sherwood City Council President Tim Rosener drafted a letter to Leah Horner, director of regional solutions in Gov. Kate Brown's office, asking that the Sherwood Ice Arena be allowed to remain open.

"This pending closure is an issue that I have been working on with Representative Courtney Neron, and she asked that I share it with you," wrote Rosener, referring to Sherwood's state representative in the Oregon House. "Attached you will find over 300 comments of support for opening the Sherwood Ice Arena. These comments and stories, taken together, show a community committed to being responsible and safe during this pandemic."

The letter further states that the community "understands that we can open our ice rinks safely with science-based procedures and protections in … place" and that the arena was using science and CDC guidance to develop safety protocols even recognized by an Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector.PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Sherwood Ice Arena offcial shut its doors on Dec. 17 after two decades due to a drop in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic

"The SIA (Sherwood Ice Arena) owners are ready and willing to partner with the OHA and governor's office to safely open this rink and help create procedures that other rinks in the region can follow," Rosener concluded.

In addition to the governor's office, the letter was sent to Neron's office, as well as to Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, who happens to be a Sherwood resident as well.

The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce is supportive of the ice arena remaining open, with executive director Corey Kearsley saying it's an important economic generator for the community.

"Losing the Sherwood Ice Arena is not only devastating for the owners and employees of the arena, but to the many Sherwood businesses that service the arena and their guests," Kearsley wrote in an email. "Ice skating competitions and ice hockey tournaments are a critical element of the ice arena business model, and those events bring important out-of-town revenue to our restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, and hotels."

So what will happen to the arena now?

"Well, we'll see what the bank wants to do," said macMillan. "I'm sure they don't want to operate an ice rink, but this would make a good warehouse."

If the ice-making equipment is sold, it will never come back as an ice rink, macMillan predicted.

In a perfect world, macMillan said he would like the governor to "follow the science, wake up and give us a site-specific permit to operate."PMG FILE PHOTO - Curtis Mucha, then of the Portland Winterhawks, defends the goal during a practice at the Sherwood Ice Arena in 2007.

Portland Winterhawks president Doug Piper said he understands the frustration surrounding the closure of Sherwood Ice Arena. The hockey club operates the Winterhawks Skating Center near Jesuit High School.

The only other ice rink in the region is Mountain View Ice Arena, a one-sheet facility in Vancouver, Washington.

Piper noted that pre-pandemic, the Winterhawks Skating Center could not meet the demand for ice time from youth and adult hockey programs and from ice skaters.

Piper has not spoken with anyone involved with Sherwood Ice Arena about the closure, but said that the loss of the facility would be widely felt.

"We're so woefully under-iced in this market," Piper said. "For (Sherwood Ice Arena) to be permanently closed would be a real blow."

(Portland Tribune sports reporter Paul Danzer contributed to this report.)


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