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City leaders, children celebrate groundbreaking at Griff's IceHouse

The Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation, the City of Grand Rapids, and DP Fox Sports and Entertainment celebrate the groundbreaking of a new multipurpose room at Griff's Ice House
Terry Marshall, George Heartwell, Lynn Rabaut, Tim Gortsema, Tom Almonte and Dave Rue join GYF children to break ground.

Terry Marshall, George Heartwell, Lynn Rabaut, Tim Gortsema, Tom Almonte and Dave Rue join GYF children to break ground. /Mike Simmons

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Lynn Rabaut, Griffins Youth Foundation executive director, speaks at Wednesday's event.

Lynn Rabaut, Griffins Youth Foundation executive director, speaks at Wednesday's event. /Mike Simmons

Mayor George Heartwell and Griffins Youth Foundation children.

Mayor George Heartwell and Griffins Youth Foundation children. /Mike Simmons


The children were happy. The parents were happy. The coaches and volunteers were happy. The business leaders were happy. The mayor and other city officials were happy. Even the taxpayers were happy.

In an event that celebrated the collaborative efforts of the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation, the City of Grand Rapids and DP Fox Sports and Entertainment, representatives from all three entities broke ground Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the expansion of Griff’s Ice House, 30 Coldbrook St. NE.

The event included brief speeches by Mayor George Heartwell, city manager Greg Sundstrom, Grand  Rapids Griffins senior vice-president of business operations and DP Fox executive Tim Gortsema, Griffins Youth Foundation executive director Lynn Rabaut and Rue Construction president Dave Rue.

Also taking part in the groundbreaking were second ward commissioner Ruth Kelly, Griff’s Ice House facility manager Terry Marshall and the assistant to the city manager, Tom Almonte.

In his speech, Sundstrom emphasized that the expansion of Griff’s Ice House, a building owned by the City of Grand Rapids, will be completed without using taxpayer dollars.  Half the cost of the expansion will be paid for by the Griffins Youth Foundation, an organization that works in conjunction with DP Fox, which owns and operates the Grand Rapids Griffins. The rest of the expansion will be funded by proceeds from Griff’s Ice House and its reserve fund.

The groundbreaking specifically celebrated the beginning of the construction of a new 1,200-square-foot multipurpose room on the northeast side of Griff’s Ice House.

The room will be used to run the Griffins Youth Foundation’s educational program, said Rabaut. The program will use the room to offer tutoring and ACT testing training to its participants and to host college representatives who will speak to Griffins Youth Foundation players. 

The Griffins Youth Foundation’s education program is expanding significantly even as the foundation expanded this fall from a program for first to ninth graders to include students through twelfth grade. 

The foundation, which began in 1995, currently has separate co-ed programs for children grades 1-3, grades 4-6 and grades 7-12.  It also has a program for girls grades 6-10 and a co-ed sled hockey program for physically challenged youth.  The foundation also co-sponsors with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, a sled hockey team for physically challenged youth and adults. All of the Griffins Youth Foundation’s programs practice and play at Griff’s Ice House.

The new multipurpose room will also be used for off-ice conditioning. Because its floor will be painted to match the markings of an ice rink, it will be used by coaches and players to run drills and situational plays.

In his speech, Heartwell said that the expansion represents a successful partnership between public and private entities Grand Rapids.

“I’m excited about the continued investment and partnership the City of Grand Rapids has with DP Fox Sports and Entertainment and the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation,” said Heartwell. “This is yet one more great example of public/private partnerships at work to improve the lives of our citizens.”

After the groundbreaking, several grade school-age Griffins Youth Foundation hockey players who also participated in the groundbreaking took Heartwell inside Griff’s Ice House to give him a tour of the foundation’s equipment room. 

Following his tour, Heartwell spoke highly of the foundation, specifically commending Rabaut and her commitment to the children she oversees.

“Lynn Rabaut has a love for the kids first and foremost, and she loves the sport and she knows how to get things done,” Heartwell said.

Marshall also praised the foundation.

“It’s a first-class operation,” he said.  “Professional organization. Very organized. Committed.” 

After Heartwell left Griff’s Ice House, several members of the foundation said that they look forward to the multipurpose room’s completion.  Jennifer Lardie, a fourth-year volunteer coach whose two sons play in different Griffins Youth Foundation programs, anticipates that the room will help her busy family meet both its academic and athletic commitments.

“We are here multiple times during the week,” she said.  “When one child is on the ice, his brother spends the time doing his homework. We are excited to have a place to do our homework where we’re not sitting backwards on the bleachers.”

Lardie’s younger son, Bradley Lardie, emphasized hockey over homework. 

“They’ll be able to have coaches meetings with the kids,” said the seven-year-old West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science student.  “They can teach kids their positions that way.”

Seventh-year coach Mike Ramirez was also excited about how the new room will help coaches develop players.

“It will be nice to have a room where I can take players off the ice and do drills and put them in situational plays—everything hockey-related that you can’t do on the ice or in the locker room,” said Ramirez, who also had worked as a Griffins Youth Foundation staff member the past four years.

Rue, who began construction Thursday, anticipates that the multipurpose room will be completed in March. Speaking after the groundbreaking, he made clear that he shared the Griffins Youth Foundation’s vision for the young people it serves.

“Our main focus and goal [is] to expand the program for those children to be able to expand their abilities, not only on the ice but for life in general,” he said.

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