Nestled in the middle of Santa Fe lies that shining oasis for recreational sports—the Genoveva Chavez Community Center. The 177,000 square foot facility boasts swimming pools, weight rooms, racquetball courts, an indoor track and one of the best ice arenas in the state. Ice arena manager Tom Miller has worked for years to bring affordable skating programs and hockey leagues to the community, and so far his efforts have been wildly successful to the tune of a curling club, figure and speed skating programs open to all (no matter their skill level) and three no-check adult hockey leagues complete with matches, referees and stat tracking. Leagues are separated by age and each includes a 14-game season. Pricing varies based on what equipment you already own.

Hockey fan David Ennis, who picked up a hockey stick for the first time about four years ago and has been hooked ever since, says the Chavez Center is far more welcoming than similar institutions elsewhere. "You have lots of time to practice here and fully utilize the ice," Ennis says of the rink. "In other places, you just have to jump in to the sport, but here you have time to learn and adjust and it's not as intimidating." Ennis also participates in the Sunrise Skate Club, a band of early risers who hit the rink as early as 5:30 am.

Miller says it's all about access. "In the ice rink itself, we offer public ice skating seven days a week, which is different than ice arenas in other parts of the country." he says. "I recently traveled to Michigan and tried to get in to the rinks for some skating, and there were maybe fifteen minutes of available ice time. We want to give people a better opportunity than that to learn."

Courtesy Genoveva Chavez Community Center

Such opportunities are affordable as well, with skate rentals running just $3, and public sessions daily. "You can skate from 5:30 in the morning to 4 at night for just the rental fee and $7 admission to the building," Miller explains.  "So, for $10, you can skate for hours; if you have your own skates its even more affordable." Miller also mentions that if someone is in the rink and wants to use other areas of the facility then return, he'll honor the previous rental. "There is something for everyone here in one building, and we want the community to utilize that."

This includes weekly Family Friday skate hours, another great way to hit the ice thanks to the community center waiving the $7 entry fee and keeping things friendly and non-competitive between 5 and 7 pm—easier hours for parents who work during the week. Group rates for birthday parties are also available for up to 15 skaters. Monday through Friday runs $135 for 90 minutes of skate time; Saturday and Sunday rates rise to $175 for the same deal. Miller says many kids come in for a friends' birthday party or a school trip and get hooked. The center even offers equipment maintenance with same-day skate sharpening for $10 and overnight service for $7.50.

If you have further questions about skating, private booking or leagues, take a look at the Geneva Chavez Community Center website or reach out to Ice Arena Manager Tom Miller at temiller@santafenm.gov.

Both he and Ennis encourage everyone, from adults and kids to those who haven't tried skating before—or haven't skated in a long time—to visit and/or reach out to staff if they want to get involved with a club or have any questions about getting started. "We have gear players can borrow and the staff is here to help and get people involved at any capacity," Miller adds.