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Ballston Celebrates New Ice Rink

Even though the National Hockey League is still suspended, fans cheer the new rink where the Caps will hopefully practice.

Hockey fans cheered the coming of a new ice rink, the next practice home of the Washington Capitals, Saturday afternoon in a ceremony at the Ballston Commons Mall.

"It took us a couple of years to get here in the Arlington tradition, deliberate and slow, but it's a good deal," said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette.

Fisette and other local officials gathered to commemorate the beginning of construction. The county approved the new rink, built atop a parking garage, in Dec. 2004. by a unanimous vote. Construction of the new rink began in January and is expected to last until August. Planning for the project began in 2000. The 137,000-square-foot ice-skating complex will house the Capitals’s two indoor ice rinks with seating for about 1,200 spectators. It includes a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training center for the team.

"It's going to be very nice for us that we won't have to drive far to see the team," said Caps fan Joe Kaplan. "We'll probably come to the rink a lot more."

Arlington county owns the new facility after a $42.8 million investment and will lease it to the Capitals for the next 27 years. The team's annual payments on the lease, according to the county, are expected to be $2.4 million.

"This is a tremendous shot in the arm for the team," said Greg Mann. "It's a big move for the Caps and it's going to help them connect more with their fan base."

Along with bringing an economic boost to the Ballston area, Fisette said local residents and sports clubs will get to use the rink whenever possible.

"You are going to see a lot more hockey clubs in Arlington," he said.

Fisette added that building the rink over the garage was a smart decision from a planning perspective.

"This hockey complex is right where it's supposed to be, close to the Metro, right off the highways, accessible to everyone and not stuck out in the middle of a corn field miles from here," he said.