The Story of HHA and KBA
In 1992, the late Kevin Bell and an enthusiastic group of hockey devotees obtained some used dasher boards, skates and a few sticks to create a makeshift ice rink on the tennis courts behind the Homer Middle School. The community support for this endeavor was evident from the beginning, as dozens of businesses and individuals donated money, time and equipment to move and install the used boards from Anchorage to Homer. Eventually, heated huts, end-zone fencing and other upgrades were also added, all through volunteer efforts and funding.
Two of Bell’s greatest loves were hockey and the community of Homer.
As the community began to recognize the value of having a new winter activity that appealed to both youth and adults, the number of hockey enthusiasts continued to grow. In 1996, the Homer Hockey Association (HHA) was organized under the auspices of USA Hockey to provide youth hockey programs for all ages.
Skating continued at the middle school rink until the late 1990s when the unpredictable winter weather patterns began changing from freezing conditions to warmer temperatures, making it impossible to consistently have skating ice available for the various teams. Still, the community’s new infatuation with the sport could not be dampened, as determined teams began to travel 85 miles north to Kenai for weekly practices and games. The Kenai rink became their “home” ice.
The inconvenience and expense associated with traveling to Kenai every week quickly motivated Bell and others involved in Homer’s new hockey scene to investigate the possibility of building an enclosed facility with a roof that would insulate refrigerated ice. Volunteers secured a lease on a Homer Electric Association-owned parcel of land in downtown Homer, building designs were drawn, soil samples were tested and a height variance was sought from the Homer City Council. Through a great deal of community-wide volunteer effort, including raising thousands of dollars from local residents and businesses, the testing and design were completed and Homer’s first ice rink became closer and closer to becoming a reality—until the entire deal fell through.
Just when HHA thought all hope was lost, English Bay Corporation stepped in and offered to build a facility on its property located on the Homer Spit. The agreement stipulated that they would build the structure and lease it back to HHA at less than market value through a long-term lease. HHA secured grant funds to purchase and install all of the mechanical components of the refrigeration system and all of the finish work on the interior, costing HHA $1.2 million.
Thanks to Bell’s unwavering vision, drive and tenacity, the effort was a success. HHA acquired the necessary funds through grants from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Murdock Charitable Trust, Wells Fargo, Homer Foundation, Kachemak City, and the Arctic Winter Games legacy program. There was also overwhelming community support that included various in-kind donations, pledges and agreements to purchase advertising in the rink. The 30,000 square-foot Homer Ice Rink—now the Kevin Bell Arena—opened in spring 2005 and since then has operated September through April, closing for the four-month summer season due to cost of utilities and lack of demand from user groups during Homer’s peak tourism season.
Two of Bell’s greatest loves were hockey and the community of Homer. Today, there are countless memories of him teaching children and their parents to skate—even if it meant lending or buying them the gear—to build enthusiasm for a sport he had seen involve and excite youth and adults. On January 7, 2008, Bell died after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. As a co-founder of the facility and the person primarily responsible for making the rink a reality, in his honor, on March 29, 2008, the facility was dedicated in his memory, officially branding the facility as the Kevin Bell Arena.