If you’ve ever walked the path around Lake Mayer, you may have wondered about the fenced-in area next to the skate park. The roller hockey rink has been around since the mid-90s.
After almost three decades of use by hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and roller derby players as well as the occasional skater, it has finally gotten a new surface paid for with a community fundraiser.
On June 8, a GoFundMe campaign was started by a member of the Savannah Roller Hockey League to raise $13,500 to resurface the worn rink. The painted lines for hockey were faded, divots in the concrete made skating an obstacle course, and the unevenness of the track meant rainwater would puddle and stand for several days.
Luke Jones, the founder of the Savannah Roller Hockey League, said "early in 2019, we had talks with the county (about fixes)." According to Jones, improvements for the rink weren’t a priority for Chatham County Parks and Recreation.
That left it to the community to do it themselves.
The Savannah Jr. DerbyTaunts, a roller derby league for girls under 18, is another sports league that uses the rink for practices. The coach and some of the player’s parents were interested in helping improve it by donating.
"It was so amazing. They put [the fundraiser] out, and within a week, they got all the funding for it," said Kimberly Harper, head coach for Savannah Jr. DerbyTaunts. "It really shows you how important this is to the community."
Support also came from the Lowcountry Lacrosse Savannah league. Though the players aren’t on skates, the rink provides a safe and reliable place to practice.
"When we first get started in February, if we can’t get a field with turf that has lights, we’ll use the rink in order to get a practice in," said league owner, Christian Harris.
The Lake Mayer hockey rink is a safe and reliable place for teams. That safety also needed to extend to the actual surface the teams use.
"With a huge interest garnered with a bunch of hockey players here now, and addition of the roller derby girls too, we were able to raise about $15,000 of our own independent money," said Jones.
The fundraising became a group effort with players pulling in family members and even businesses. Two large donations came from Eckard’s Flooring Design Center and Dave Eckard, who is one of the hockey league’s team captains.
Work to repair the rink finally started on June 17. The new surface includes several coats of polyester finish and two coats of SkateMaster, which is an acrylic emulsion coating, to give it a smooth silky surface.
This new surface will make training much easier for all the leagues that use it.
"[The rink] has actually been a really important part for the Savannah Jr. DerbyTaunts," said Harper.
Harris agreed. Even though the lacrosse league normally uses a turf field for practice, sometimes the field lights aren’t left on. "With Lake Mayer lights being on timers, we never have to worry about that."
The hockey league’s new season starts this month at the rink. They have 105 players registered. Jones said they are making adjustments to maintain social distancing practices.
The plans for improvements don’t stop with resurfacing. There are other things that the players think the county could do to make the space better. Harris would like to see a new scoreboard and possibly a roof added in the future.
The leagues who rely on the Lake Mayer rink hope the popularity of the fundraiser will show Chatham County Parks and Recreation how important it is.