Butte's speed skating center aims to attract more visitors
BUTTE, Mont. - The facilitators at the High Altitude Skating Oval in Butte are working to restore it to its former Olympic glory.
Renovations are underway with hopes of inspiring the community and new Olympic skaters.
Between 1983 and the turn of the century, some of the best athletes from around the world came to compete in the Speed Skating World Cup and to train for the Olympics.
According to High Altitude's president, Dave Silk, the center is currently open but no longer attracts world-class athletes. Still, he thinks things can be done to inspire Olympic hopefuls in Butte.
"The life of the track expired. We couldn't really guarantee ice, which affected our ability to host World Cup meets," Silk said. "We would like to add some ice to the inside, potentially a hockey rink."
Silk added that he plans to get new lights and something else. "There's a gentleman in town that has helped me greatly in raising some money for a sound system," he said.
Before he can do anything, Silk said the track needs ice, and it hasn't come easy in mild temperatures. He needs a firm layer of snow and a good cold front before putting ice down, but he hopes the track will be ready for Christmas break.
Butte resident Joanna Howard tells NBC Montana she can't wait.
"My favorite is to go out late at night when I probably shouldn't be out there -- when the moon is full and the snow is falling," Howard said.
An avid figure skater, Howard said there's nothing like being on the ice. She learned to skate at the High Altitude Oval when she was 3 years old.
"I love the feeling of freedom. Everything else disappears when you're on the ice. You're as light as a feather," Howard said.
At the end of October former Montana governor and Butte native Judy Martz passed away. Martz was on the 1964 Olympic speed skating team and trained at the Oval.