Monday, Jan. 19, 1998 | 5:30 a.m.
The desert's deep thirst for frozen water won't be quenched. That won't happen for a long time.
But when the Sahara Ice Palace officially opens next month, the amount of recreational hockey and figure skating theoretically will double.
The 39,000-square-foot facility located at 800 Karen Ave., just off East Sahara Avenue, will be only the second fully operational ice arena in Las Vegas. It is scheduled to open Feb. 14, the seventh anniversary of the Santa Fe Ice Arena's opening.
The Sahara Ice Arena will feature public skating, figure skating, hockey and special events. It also will reserve limited time for events such as broomball and curling.
"The reasons to have this arena, first off, is the demand for ice," said Eric Horn of the Horn Co., which operates the Sahara Ice Arena. "We've proven that demand with research we've done, even though it seems fairly obvious. Secondly, it was a building already built as an ice arena. So all the requirements were already done."
The Sahara Ice Palace originally was constructed for skating in the late 1960s, but was converted to an indoor soccer facility in the early 1970s. It eventually became the Christian Life Community Church.
But as Southern Nevada's population boomed, so did the demand for ice, prompting the Horn Co. to return the arena to its original use. The Santa Fe Ice Arena has been booked solid for some time as youths and adults clamor for accommodations.
"We're still doing the final construction, but we leave the roll-up door open," Horn said. "And in walk people off the streets wanting to sign for ice time, and it's not even advertised. There was such a lid on ice time. We hope our opening will spark some synergy here."
The outcry for ice is so strong that the Santa Fe isn't threatened in the slightest by the Sahara Ice Palace.
"There's bound to be some impact in the beginning, but down the road there's a lot of people looking for ice," said Bill Coblentz, the Santa Fe Ice Arena's director of special events. "We turn down people every day. It will probably work out pretty good.
"There are a lot people in this town who would love to ice skate. We have youth hockey kids waiting in line to play."
The Las Vegas Thunder professional hockey club currently works out at the Santa Fe and plans to remain there. But the team is excited by the Sahara Ice Palace's opening from a community standpoint.
"It's great to see another ice rink finally come up on board and operating," Thunder general manager Bob Strumm said. "The more kids that are playing hockey the better it is for hockey."
It cost the Horn Co. $600,000 -- most of which went into ice-making equipment -- to improve the building and convert it back to an ice arena. While there is no seating capacity, there is availability to seat up to 1,500 people in the future.
The facility will feature locker rooms, coaches offices, a snack bar, pro shop, skate rental and video game and party rooms. A complete sound system has been installed.