With winter still in full swing in Central New York, the time has come for Tompkins County to rally behind a common cause. Kraft Hockeyville USA is a cooperative effort between the National Hockey League and Kraft Foods to celebrate the game of hockey in communities across the United States. As a Tompkins County resident, especially for those that live closer to the Ithaca limits, it has been hard to go through winter without hearing a mention of the facilities and upgrades needed at the Cass Park Ice Rink. The ice rink is a semi-enclosed structure that has provided countless memories from casual, public skating to heated rivalries between the Ithaca High School and the Cortland-Homer hockey programs.
Through the Kraft Hockeyville USA contest, which allows community members to nominate their local rinks and share stories of the community’s love of hockey, the winning community receives $150,000 in upgrades. For Cass Park, that prize money would greatly contribute to the campaign to enclose the rink, an initiative that has set a goal of raising one million dollars.
Thanks to the agreement between Kraft and the NHL, the winning community receives another prize as a reward for its love of the sport. The NHL will host a preseason contest, usually between two local teams, in the winning community. To put it in perspective, if Ithaca were to win, a preseason NHL game could see a team like the Buffalo Sabres take on the New York Rangers at Cass Park.
With these prospects in mind, Ithaca’s Mary Granger is helping to lead the charge for Cass Park to be selected as the winning community. She, along with other local residents, has shared her stories from the rink and the reasons why Ithaca being named Kraft Hockeyville USA would better the community and the rink. This excerpt from Grainger’s nomination essay captures the true need for the funds to achieve the one million dollar goal.
“Cass Park Arena is one of the few remaining open-air rinks in the state of New York. With increasingly variable weather patterns, it is difficult to provide a safe, reliable playing surface from late October to the days of March. An architectural plan to enclose the surface and renovate the lobby and locker room was divided into three parts each costing a million dollars. In 2016, the City undertook the first part enhancing the ceiling, roof, and lighting. Since then the nonprofit group, Friends of the Ithaca Youth Bureau, has been raising funds from community individuals and organizations. With a grant from the state of New York, funding allocations from the City of Ithaca and the County Tourism Bureau, and community donations, the campaign is getting closer to the overall goal.”
Grainger went on to mention that the prize money from winning the contest would allow for the construction to begin in 2020, the year that had been set as the anticipated start when the initiative began.
With a passion for youth hockey clubs, the Ithaca Little Red, the Cornell Men’s and Women’s Hockey programs, and the sport in general, it is apparent that Ithaca and the surrounding towns are hockey communities that are strongly rooted and self-supported.
As February begins to come to a close, the deadline to help nominate Ithaca and Cass Park for the voting round of the contest is fast approaching. The nomination process concludes on March 2 and takes a matter of minutes to complete the entry form.
While the youth players and skating fans alike certainly want to see an enclosed Cass Park, the prospect of becoming Kraft Hockeyville USA provides for more than the needs of those who currently use the rink. Winning the contest allows for future generations to continue the passion for the game of hockey in Ithaca.
For those looking to help the cause and support the Ithaca hockey community, details and the entry form can be found at krafthockeyville.com and by searching for Cass Park.
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