Mid-South Ice House reopened their doors for the first time since March 22 last week, and the staff has made many changes since the closing.
The Ice House is home to a handful of hockey teams, both recreational and competitive leagues, for all ages. The Ole Miss club hockey team also uses the Ice House as their home rink, though their season has been postponed until January. The SEC Hockey Club season traditionally starts in September, but the 17 SECHC member teams decided to delay the season until next year.
Along with hockey leagues and classes, the Ice House also hosts open skate sessions, skating lessons, curling leagues and birthday parties. They also have a weekly homeschool skate, which has become increasingly popular now that more students have switched to remote learning or homeschooling this semester.
General Manager Jene Rogers and her husband opened the Ice House in 2011 when their sons became more interested in playing hockey. When they bought the building, it was just an empty warehouse. When they converted it into a rink, the Ice House became the only ice skating rink of its kind in north Mississippi.
When the Ice House closed its doors in March, Rogers said that changes needed to be made in order to preserve the rink. Without regular business, they could not afford to maintain the cool temperatures in order to keep the ice frozen. They decided they would need to pull the ice out and would replace it when they could reopen.
Below the ice is a base of sand, which Rogers said was releveled when they took the ice out. Earlier this month, they began “rebuilding” the ice, sharing photos on social media as layers of sand and ice were freezing.
The Ice House staff spent their closure making other changes to the facility as well, including repainting, landscaping and equipment maintenance.
Rogers said that they were able to keep all of their full-time employees and almost all of their part-time employees on their payroll while they were closed. She said that in the off-season, the Ice House employs about 20 people, and they employ about 30 people during the busier holiday seasons.
Rogers said that the rink is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their employees and skaters, including hand sanitizer stations and requiring masks at all times. Each customer has their temperature checked at the front entrance.
“We keep separate entrances on the ice so there isn’t a jam in the flow of traffic going on and off the ice,” Rogers said. Signage is posted around the rink, encouraging skaters to social distance while on the ice and in locker rooms. For youth hockey players, the Ice House requires them to come dressed in their equipment in order to reduce traffic through the locker rooms.
The summertime is usually slower for the Ice House, so Rogers said that business is pretty much back to normal. She hopes that business will pick up more in their busy season, which begins around Thanksgiving.
“We’ve had a decent return rate,” she said. “We started our learn-to-skate classes last night and we’ve sold out two Stick and Puck classes.” The Ice House hosts many different hockey leagues and classes, including the Stick and Puck, where hockey players can use the rink to practice their skills.
Hockey and curling leagues at the Ice House are set to begin in September.