RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Not much has changed at River Falls’ Wildcat Centre since it was built almost 20 years ago. And while the number of skaters in the River Falls Youth Hockey Association continues to grow, the equipment and facilities needed to maintain the rink are wearing down.
But now area hockey fans can help the volunteer-run River Falls Youth Hockey Association and Wildcat Centre by voting online this weekend to name River Falls as Kraft HockeyVille USA 2020.
River Falls’ is battling it out with three other community ice rinks across the nation for the chance to be crowned Kraft Hockeyville USA 2020 and receive $150,000 in rink upgrades and the chance to host a National Hockey League preseason game.
Every year since 2015 Kraft Heinz, along with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association, sponsors the competition to support local youth hockey associations. Local communities submit their story on why their rink should be honored and through social media earn digital rally points to determine the four finalists.
This year’s finalists are Wildcat Centre in River Falls, East Grand Forks Civic Center in East Grand Forks, Minn.; El Paso Event Center in El Paso, Texas; and Wichita Ice Center in Wichita, Kan.
River Falls, WI, one of the Top 4 hoping to be crowned Kraft #HockeyvilleUSA. Nothing says community spirit more than a youth hockey association run solely by volunteers! Get ready to vote! Voting is unlimited and will open on Aug 29th at 7 am ET! @NHL @NHLPA @NHLonNBCSports pic.twitter.com/Aq8EIxluZ3— Kraft Hockeyville US (@HockeyvilleUSA) August 17, 2020
The winner will be determined through a 28-hour public, online voting session that will last from 6 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, through 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 30. Communities and fans can go to krafthockeyville.com to cast an unlimited number of votes for their favorite rinks, and the community with the most cumulative votes will be crowned Kraft Hockeyville USA 2020, with a grand prize of $150,000 in rink upgrades.
The first prize (runner-up) rink will receive $30,000 toward rink upgrades while each of the second prize rinks will receive $10,000. The NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund will also donate $10,000 worth of new hockey equipment to each of the four finalist communities.
The Wildcat Centre in River Falls is entirely owned and operated by the River Falls Youth Hockey Association and was built so the youth hockey program wouldn't have to rent ice time at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Hunt Arena. There are currently over 200 skaters on RFYHA teams and it’s also the home to the River Falls Wildcat boys and St. Croix Valley Fusion girls high school hockey teams.
But after 20 years of use, River Falls “hockey mom” Carrie Brittain said the arena is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades.
“Our compressor system is old and in constant need of repairs,” she wrote in her nomination letter to the contest judges. “The building facilities, seating, and lights could use an update. Right now all of the money raised through multiple fund-raising efforts (selling pizza coupons, raffle tickets, gala, golf tournament, and softball tournament) go to the mortgage and running costs of the rink. We try to keep the fees for joining hockey as low as possible so it is affordable to the families in our community.”
Brittain noted that Wildcat Centre does not receive any monetary support through the city, county, or state, over 45 business sponsors, most locally owned businesses, help support the rink and hockey programs.
“Our community in our town is amazing,” she wrote. “We come together to support one another through times of illness, crises, and celebration. We also have a strong passion for hockey. Our entire River Falls community would be honored to be selected as the Kraft Hockeyville rink of the year.”