It wasn’t all that long ago that there was no AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel.
And, if the facility — which has the largest ice rink in the Southeastern United States — had not opened in 2017, the community would have missed out on all sorts of big events and special occasions.
For instance, National Hockey League prospects would not have skated into Pasco County to show fans and pro scouts their skills in shot-making, blocking, toughness and teamwork.
The center, at 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd., would not have been used as the training grounds for the gold medal-winning 2018 U.S. Olympic women’s ice hockey team, either.
Plus, it wouldn’t house the Women’s Sports Herstory Museum — which is dedicated to female pioneers in hockey.
And, the coveted Stanley Cup never would made a stop there — thus, depriving the young hockey players who had the chance to see it, of that thrilling and inspirational experience.
The list of big events and special moments at the ice center goes on and on.
And, it was Gordie Zimmermann, the facility’s owner manager partner, who had the vision for Center Ice, and its enormous possibilities.
He received recognition for the center’s contributions to the economy and quality of life in Wesley Chapel, during the North Tampa Bay Chamber’s Dec. 7 breakfast meeting.
Michael Berthelette, the chamber’s outgoing chairman, singled out Zimmermann by presenting him with the Chairman’s Award for 2021, during the meeting at the Porter Campus of Pasco-Hernando State College.
“I really took some time to really think about who I wanted to honor with my chairman’s award for 2021,” Berthelette told those gathered.
He said Zimmermann demonstrated that the ice center could achieve its goals, despite the challenges.
He told Zimmermann the award is “in recognition for your contributions toward a broad range of economic development activities that demonstrate substantial investment in our community, your economic development efforts have required agile planning and a comprehensive approach to implement solutions that have made the North Tampa Bay community a more attractive place to live, work and play.”
Zimmermann was surprised by the honor.
He told the crowd that he thought he was just joining some of his staff for breakfast at the chamber meeting.
In accepting the award, Zimmermann said: “You guys have been awesome. It’s been a great community.
“I just want to thank the whole community, all of the businesses, the educational systems, my staff — unbelievable staff.
“The chamber has been great. I just really appreciate it. I didn’t expect this, today,” Zimmermann said.
Hope Kennedy, president and CEO of the chamber, recalled the initial reaction when chamber leaders heard about the plans for the ice center.
“We all looked out there and saw a mud swamp. So, we were all a little bit nervous about this vision and dream,” Kennedy said.
“But to see it all happen — and what it has done for our community. It has put Wesley Chapel not only on the regional map, (but) the international map.
“So, Gordie, I’m very proud to stand by you and your whole team that you’ve built there.
“It’s exciting,” Kennedy said.
Then, as the chamber’s top executive, Kennedy also had the opportunity to present a special award.
In choosing a recipient for the President and CEO’s Award, Kennedy said she always seeks “to recognize an unsung hero that goes above and beyond.”
She then detailed some of the ways that this year’s honoree has been instrumental to the chamber’s success.
“He has added tables. He has taken away tables. He has put out cones for me. He’s lugged in food for me,” Kennedy said, adding that he’s also kept coffee from spilling all over the place.
Then, turning to the recipient — who did not know that he’d been selected — she said: “You have done so much for me and this organization over the last five years. I couldn’t think of anybody better to present this award to, than to you, Duane Powell.”
The campus facilities manager for PHSC was obviously stunned — but also delighted — by the news.
Like Zimmermann, Powell also thought he was just coming to the meeting for breakfast, said Kevin O’ Farrell, provost of PHSC’s Porter Campus.
Published December 29, 2021