The last build indoor ice rink in Latvia was opened on the 30th May, 2008 in a small village of Ozolnieki. Afterwards the economical crisis struck hard and there wasn't any new finished projects until now. After eight year break there are two ice rinks under construction and the third ice rink is waiting for a start of construction.
Mārupe - Mārupe ice rink
At the dawn of the year 2015 Latvian hockey community received very good news. On December 30, 2015 the foundation stone was laid for the construction of an unique sports building in Mārupe - Mārupe Ice Rink. At the ceremony in the presence of ideas authors, Mārupe county Council President Mārtiņš Bojārs, businessmen and other guests, Mārupe Ice Rink foundations had a time capsule with a message for future generations inserted.
Author of the idea and the project manager is Juris Danče, whom with his love for hockey has already inspired many peers, colleagues and friends." Our desire is to create a county and community building which is lasting and meaningful, thus giving not only the opportunity for children and adults to do sports, but also creating new jobs, improving the populations activity and promoting environmental improvement. We believe and hope that this is an important contribution to both Mārupe residents and guests," says Juris Danče.
Mārupe Ice Rink project on Kantora street was created by joining forces of businessmen, Ltd. LHM co-owners - Juris Danče, Elita Siliņa and Aija Medne. Construction works are planned to be completed by the end of 2016.(1)
The small village of Mārupe which adjoins with Riga and with population of 11 034 (2013), is very beneficial place to develop hockey. To build an ice rink is one thing but to fill it and keep it busy is another thing. Positive demographics, closeness with Riga and very good economic potential - Marupe has it all to build a strong hockey pyramid and to become one of the best Latvian hockey player talent forges.
Take a look at the Mārupe Ice Rink construction project, it's in Latvian.
Riga - HK Kurbads ice rink
At the beginning I would like to introduce you with a brief HK Kurbads history overview.(2)
In 1996 not only Latvia’s National ice hockey team won B division and advanced to Elite level world championship but also it is the year hockey club HK Kurbads is founded.
HK Kurbads is the dream of Gints Zviedrītis, mythological hero Jānis Šīraks and team’s captain Andis Pikāns. The dream that started playing ice hockey on Ķīšezers (lake in Riga) and local sports school. Many company’s “Kurbads and CO” clients and other ice hockey fans, who are somehow connected with car sales and transports, were invited to play in the team.
Interview with a HK Kurbads owner Andis Pikāns which was published in 24th March, 2014:(3)
Back in 1996, when the Kurbads team was founded, was there a thought about Latvian champion title in the future?
Absolutely not. The idea was to bring together like-minded people. They were my friends Jānis Šīrāks, Ansis Eglītis and Gints Zviedrītis, with whom we had, so to speak, an united team. Then we asked some more people to join, who had sometimes skated and knew how to do it backwards. All this was done with an idea to have a good time. We started playing in amateur championship. At that time, the Latvian hockey fan movement really began, and together we went to all the world championships to support the Latvian team. No, we didn’t think about playing in Latvian championship, because we had no reason to. The business had only begun in 1996.
Does that mean, that a year or two ago business had developed so far that it was financially possible to maintain a Latvian championship level team?
I remember quite clearly that I had such an idea in 2006. It was a time when all things moved up toward the stars both in business and in sports, and everyone thought that there was no turning back. HK Kurbads was also doing well. We had settled in our business had substantially grown. It was a time when we could start thinking about semi-professional team. Despite the progress, we understood that in Latvia’s conditions there was no place for a purely professional team anyway. I started to calculate and count, and realized, that I can’t be hasty. I think I’m very pragmatic in that way. In business with Kurbads (firm) I have been very close to the edge and I know, what that feels like. Reputation is very important to me, so that people know – if I say something, I will also do it. Because of that, prior to the decision about making a Latvian championship level team, I thought everything through very carefully. There were doubts that we will not make it, because budgets were very different from how they are now and financial crisis also started not long after that. Then I thought – thank God that I decided to pause. It would be a horrible feeling if I had to give all that up. In 2008 there were serious thoughts about how to save the company, which already had seventy people working in it. I felt responsible about them. Then there was no time to think about hockey.
Will HK Kurbads be a semi-professional team in the future too, or do you have higher plans?
We have to watch what happens in other similar countries. Even in western European countries with a much better economic situation not all higher league players are absolute professionals, who do nothing else besides playing hockey and get paid for it. In Latvia officially there are 4500 registered hockey players. For an example, let’s take Denmark. This country is in a similar situation – it has 4200 hockey players registered. There’s a little more in Norway – 6900 hockey players, but both these countries have well organized national championships. Still, even in those championships not all teams playing are purely professional. Of course, it’s clear with Norway, because there they have absolutely different environment for entrepreneurs and a much higher standard of living, but Denmark – why not? We have to strive to achieve Danish level. We have to be positive, that we will reach Denmark’s hockey championship level someday. To do that, each has to set himself a goal – to treat their duties more professionally, and then the overall level of our championship will rise.
It would be ideal, if each ice rink had a team, which played in Latvian championship. Do you agree?
It couldn’t be any other way. It should be understood, that an ice rink in Latvia’s conditions isn’t a business project. It clearly is a public project. It’s altruism from a person or a group of people. Of course, you can’t wait until the country will give you something. Before we get something, we have to give ourselves. It is an important difference. In Latvia, many are used to getting first and only then giving. In Latvia’s circumstances the most appropriate option is a training hall, which has a hockey pyramid built in it, starting with children’s groups at the bottom and a Latvian championship team on the top. This is all that is needed and it’s nothing complicated.
Although there are halls built in other Latvia’s cities, most hockey players are based in Riga. The business environment is also more active in the capital city, that’s why, in my opinion, there should be an aim to have halls and teams in the largest neighborhoods. Rīga/Prizma already covers Pārdaugava neighborhoods Imanta and Zolitūde, one team should be based in LSPA ice rink in Šmerlis, and one hall in Ķengarags would also be good?
I agree completely. I’d also like it if rural areas would develop, but currently indeed the largest number of people and the main action happens in Riga. I also think that Ķengarags is one ice rink short. Population there would be only happy if young people could go to the rink and engage in sports.
How much does it cost in Latvia to maintain a premier league team?
I don’t know how others calculate it, but I believe that 100 000 euros are needed. That is a sum of money for a team to function more or less normally. It’s possible to try to save somewhere, but with money under 600 000 it would be difficult to survive. The most important thing is five ice practices a week. Of course, more experienced players can afford to skate three times a week, but then it’s no longer a question about development. New players have to skate more often.
What is the proportion for the team’s funding?
Kurbads (firm) contributes the most, but around 30-35 percent comes from sponsors. Mostly from companies with which we cooperate.
Have there been cases where someone from the side also shows initiative?
Yes and I want to tell you about a fantastic occurrence. It was after our first game with Ozolnieki/Monarch team. A person from Piebalgas alus (beer company) came to us and asked – how can I help you guys? That’s how we got our technical supporter, who supplies us with water. After the game we also allow the players to drink a bottle of beer, it’s nothing bad. This practice exists in other countries too, such as Czech Republic and Germany. We also have Ibumetin girls, how we call them, they supply us with medicine. Yes, we have those small success stories, because I know how hard it is to convince people to support something. Still, it has to be done, because nothing will be delivered to us on a plate. I can only say that from marketing point of view we are absolute winners with this project. Kurbads as a brand has become much more popular. We also work a lot in this area. On YouTube we have made a Kurbads.tv channel, on which we try to draw attention with jokes. Jānis Šīrāks is our idea generator. We try to be positive, because we have to draw attention to Latvian Championship somehow.
Another story of success is the team player Toms Hartmanis, who is quickly climbing up the career ladder. Toms came to us in summer and started working as a warehouse worker. After playing in England, Toms speaks very good in English, he also has such qualities as speed and ability to make the correct decision not only on the ice, but also when doing his work duties. Soon he will organize Toyota car traffic in the Baltic countries.
HK Kurbads has a strict routine. Three practices a week at 8 am in Vidzemes ledus halle (ice rink in Ogre) are mandatory. Were you the one who decided that there won’t be any chosen ones, who could come only to the games?
I came to the decision through conversations. When I meet, for example, Harijs Vītoliņš, we go through everything about what and how should be done. Hockey is a team sport. If the practices are meant for everybody, then everybody must be there. That’s the only way a team can form – no one gets any discounts.
At what stage is the idea about the construction of your own arena in Rumbula?
So far it’s only a vision. We have seen some land plots where the hall/rink/arena could be located. The goal is to have our own arena in two years.
Would HK Kurbads then have junior team too?
Absolutely. I don’t want to say loud words like mission, but we have to give young people a chance to develop.
The new ice rink in Riga which also will be Latvijas hokeja Virslīga (Latvian prime / highest hockey league) team home arena sounds fantastic, adding a youth system sounds double fantastic. But there is one big con. HK Kurbads home arena at the moment is Vidzemes ledus halle in Ogre which is 36 km east of the capital city Riga. When HK Kurbads moves from Ogre to Riga, Vidzemes ledus halle will be left to struggle. But let us hope for the best.
Rēzekne - Olympic center Rēzekne
Rēzekne with a population of 31 591 is seventh most populated city in Latvia. The third ice rink in Latvia under construction is included in multinational Olympic center with athletic tracks, football stadium, indoor hall for basketball, volleyball, outside pool and recreation area. The construction started in 2013 and it will be in three parts, with ice rink in the third part. Rēzekne is located 242 km from Riga and 89 km from Daugavpils which also has ice rink. The ice rink in Rēzekne will be the second in the Latgale region which is will be good for the both cities, ice rinks and hockey players. Rēzekne is located in the weakest economical region of Latvia with the highest unemployment in the country, but few ambitious construction projects in the last few years showed that Rēzekne has a good potential to develop as region culture and economic center.
Read the related articles - Map of ice rinks in Latvia, Registered hockey players in Latvia, Major issues with a hockey development in Latvia
1 - www.marupe.lv/likti-pamati-marupes-ledus-hallei/
2 - http://www.hkkurbads.lv/history/
3 - http://www.diena.lv/sodien-laikraksta/nopauzeja-lai-atspertos-istaja-laika-14049295
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