Lakeland Ice Arena opens for team practices

Polk County's newest sports attraction will give you chills.

Lakeland Ice Arena is open for team practices and will soon be opened for public skate. It's expected to bring a big economic boost to the area.

Right now, hockey teams from George Jenkins High School, Florida Southern College, and others are practicing at the rink on Memorial Blvd.

It will be open to the public in a few weeks.

"I think it's going to give kids a healthy way to spend time," said Paul Granville, who owns the arena with his wife, Nanette.

For their 9-year-old son, Jackson, who is already a skilled player, it's like a dream come true.

"He loves it," said his dad. "It's hard to get him anywhere else."

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For many other hockey players in the area, the arena is a godsend. Until now, they had to travel to Tampa or Orlando.

"Traffic on I-4 should explain it all," said Youth Hockey Director Donnie Ray. "It is miserable to get into town. Brandon, Wesley Chapel, Clearwater. A lot of traffic, a lot of time, a lot of parents running late for practices."

The building was a dormant bowling alley for more than a decade before the Granville's gave it a new purpose.

Right now, there is one ice arena. There will soon be three more: two with ice and one for street hockey.

"There was a big void in the hockey world," said Ray. "We can now bring hockey to Central Florida."