NORWALK, Conn. Ryan Hughes looks up and sees a baby coming to life in the emerging steel framework of the Norwalk building renovation.
"When we first walked in here it was like, mess," he said of the expansive warehouse space at 300 Wilson Ave., part of a derelict building long regarded as a Norwalk eyesore. "Now that we're getting everything out, we're getting the beams out, now we're seeing it take shape. What we envisioned in our head is actually coming to fruition in front of our eyes, which is amazing to me."
Hughes is the managing partner in the SoNo Ice House, a professional-caliber ice skating and hockey facility, expected to open in mid-July. He came up with the plan, found the location and has been "A to Z, making it happen."
The SoNo Ice House will feature two skating rinks, one an official NHL-sized sheet of ice measuring 200 feet by 85 feet and another training rink, sized at 120 feet by 60 feet. There will be a pro shop, gym and café. The facility will be home to classes through the North American Hockey School, of which Hughes is the director.
Although it's not obvious from the outside, construction on the former Nash Engineering Co. is "ahead of schedule overall," said George Daniels of Claris Construction Inc., which is doing the work on the Ice House.
Two buildings are involved. The northern building is expected to be demolished in mid-April. That work that is being overseen by Spinnaker Real Estate Partners.
Hughes said the wall between the Ice House and the dilapidated northern building is expected to come down next Thursday. "Then the demo really starts kicking in high gear," he said. "They've done a lot of steel work, a lot of prep work and now they're hanging the beams. As soon as they finish that, we start our painting and then we'll start looking, really, exactly like an ice rink."
The demolished wall will make way for what will be the façade of the Ice House, facing a parking lot and Wilson Avenue with hockey-related images on the wall.
"Mid-July is kind of our soft opening, work out the kinks, get the ice up and running and then really hit the ground running early mid-August with camps, stuff like that," he said.
Hughes, a Stamford resident, played hockey on Team USA while he was at New York University's Stern School of Business. He coaches and runs AAA New England Generals spring teams.
Most facilities don't have a true NHL rink, he said. "We actually spent the extra dollars to do it right, have it 200 feet long," he said. "As a hockey guy it was really important to me to do it."
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