End of an Era: Highland Ice Arena closes October 15, 2022

Monday, September 5, 2022

Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

By Jamie Holter

If you are reading this in the Shoreline Area News, you have probably been to Shoreline’s Highland Ice Arena at least once or, more realistically, maybe 100 times in your lifetime.

The rink was built on a vacant lot on Aurora and named for the area. View looking north.
Whether it was skating lessons, fun with friends, school parties, birthday parties, or other family outings, the rink on Aurora has been a part of Shoreline entertainment and community long before Shoreline was a thought. In fact, the area was originally known as Richmond Highlands so that’s how the arena got its name.

Grand Opening 60 years ago

The Highland Ice Arena is closing its doors for good October 15, 2022, after serving the greater Puget Sound community for nearly 60 years to the day.

Terry Green, longtime Skating Director, and daughter of founding owners Dorothy and Jim Stephens, shared pictures and memories of this cherished landmark recently as she prepared to close up.

Postcard with photos from 1962

Her dad grew up in Vancouver, BC and learned to skate early at Vancouver’s Forum. He worked jobs on the ice and found an early passion for curling. He won the National Northwest Jr. Men’s champs twice in 1938 and 1939.

Like most men his age, he planned to join his father’s military regiment, the Canadian Army. But due to an unfortunately timed outbreak of mumps and hives, he was rejected. Frustrated, he pursued a short teaching career and later joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, which proved to be an important decision only discovered later on.

Dorothy Stephens at the start of her career in the Ice Capades

At about the same time, more than half a country away, Dorothy was skating on the frozen ponds of Quebec with three brothers who forced her into service as ice hockey goalkeeper. She was tough and good. So good and so skilled, she tried out for the Ice Capades and secured a spot.

The spot took her on tour throughout the U.S. During a break on that tour, she was at her home ice arena where her future husband was hanging out between his tours. They met. It wasn’t instant. It took a little while to win her heart! They married on the winter solstice, December 21, 1944. Both finished their respective tours and got down to their shared passion – the ice and their trademark motto “Let skating preserve the fitness of youth”.

After teaching in Tacoma and Portland for several years, they had an opportunity to co-lease the Ballard Ice Arena at Shilshole and Dock for a few years. In 1962, they took the leap and opened their own - the Highland Ice Arena was born! [Fun fact: they had the first Zamboni in Washington State!

Jim and Dorothy Stephens at home on the ice

Mom and Dad Stephens taught for years. They worked at and volunteered for every aspect of the ice arena world. They ran their own business. They supported and coached Curling teams. They got the North Seattle Granite Curling Club off the ground. They influenced hundreds, if not thousands of skaters and athletes over the years.

Terry, their daughter and 40+ year Skating Director, says growing up in her family was the best life. The entire skating community is very close. They shared stories of falling asleep in the music room on New Year's Eve because they kept the ice arena open until 12:15am to ring in the new year with everyone.

She says that still today, she can go to any competition anywhere in the U.S. and meet someone who skated at the Highland Ice Arena. Back then, skating instructors brought their kids to work and now she sees those kids with their own kids, putting on their own make-up for their own competition. Generations and generations of happiness and preserving the fitness of youth.

The Stephens family 1955

But like many things, it’s time to close. Dorothy and Jim both passed within months of each other recently at ages 99 and 100 respectively and left quite a legacy.

Terry’s husband, Gary, her brother, Rick and his wife Diana Stephens are currently running the rink. The sale has been pending since January 2021. Rick and Diana will continue to run a skate shop and handle boot fittings, sharpening and repairs at a location yet to be determined.

Valkyria Mansfield, 4th generation family skater and the youngest of the great grandkids

Surviving family members say it’s tough to run a business, let alone get up and down into the Zamboni these days. So they decided to sell.

The deal closes October 6, 2022 and Terry invited the community to one last skating exhibition on October 15, 2022

Many, many thanks to the family for sharing their passion and this jewel with our community for so long.

--Except as noted, photos are courtesy Terry Green


Anonymous,  September 6, 2022 at 10:49 AM  

Thank you for the article about Highland Ice Arena. We lived just blocks from there and grew up skating and playing hockey. For ten or more years my Dad LeRoy Weaver was the assistant manager along with Harold Sowell. My first job as a 16 year old was in the snack bar and I worked there all through High School and beyond...eventually working the front desk, store, patch sheets etc. So glad that we can come to the event on September 8th...and my husband Scott Rinker who also grew up there playing hockey, handing out skates and driving the zamboni. What wonderful memories we have of the entire Stephens family and our time growing up at Highland Ice Arena. Thanks for the memories!

Marilyn Jarvis,  September 6, 2022 at 11:09 AM  

My Son Jim and Daughter Kari spent a lot of time there in the late 60s and 70s. Kari took lessons from age 6 to 13 and competed with several others. I sewed many costumes for their Musical productions. Sorry to see it go.
My Father had a 76 Union gas station in the 50s where Fred Myers sits now.

Anonymous,  September 6, 2022 at 2:20 PM  

What will be built in its place? Both this and Lynnwood have been in need of facilities upgrades. Most will probably migrate to the new Kraken facility. Good luck with your future!

Just My Opinion September 6, 2022 at 5:56 PM  

thank you! my boys and I had fun many times though we never became accomplished in the sport - wishing you all smooth ice in your futures!

Anonymous,  September 6, 2022 at 7:47 PM  

Sad days when something so memorable goes away. I at least hope it was sold to someone who will keep it running. Rather than it being tore down for apartments or some other eyesore.

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 6:34 AM  

Thank you for all you have given to both youth and adults. I learned to skate there in the 70’s. Blessings to the family 🙏🏻 Sue

Marissa Gibson,  September 7, 2022 at 7:16 AM  

I only ever went a few times to Highland Ice Arena, as I wasn’t a very skilled skater, but I always had a fun time, even if I fell a lot. The memories I made have always stayed with me. I hope that who ever does end up owning it will see what it means to the Community of Shoreline and the historic value it brings to enrich those lives. Don’t let us loose our tradition. Save It!

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 1:00 PM  

I have so many memories there. I grew up skating and taking lessons there. Going to miss it! Blessing for what’s next for the owners!

snavely1957,  September 7, 2022 at 1:42 PM  

Many fond memories of skating here, from early-1978 (remembering the disco ball and black lights!) to 2001. I learned to skate at Highland, landed my first Axel, passed many a dance test, and was in three of the Paradise on Ice shows in the 1980s. I made a lot of friends there; sorry to hear of the closing, but have cherished memories! Thank you for all the fun!

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 3:34 PM  

My father-in-law, Roscoe Mitchell, was a lodge buddy of Jimmy’s. We met Jimmy many times, and visited him when he was in the hospital several years ago. He told us many stories about the arena, and the curling club. He was really a very special guy. Roscoe passed away in 2016, and we have often wondered how Jimmy was doing. I’m sorry to hear he has passed, but living to 100 is quite an accomplishment! Thank you for sharing this story.

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 5:40 PM  

1986 Evergreen school would go every Friday as an optional PE elective. I clearly remember hearing the Punch Out arcade machine while we put on our skates... "Body blow!, Body blow!". So many great memories!!

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 7:25 PM  

My sister Susan White spent many hours figure skating there in middle to late sixties. I think she found a great deal of peace gliding on the ice. May she RIP. Jim White

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 9:08 PM  

I remember Scott being my coach and playing with your brother David.

Tim Waldal

Anonymous,  September 7, 2022 at 9:09 PM  

Lynnwood did recently complete some upgrades.

Anonymous,  September 8, 2022 at 1:38 PM  

My mom worked at the bingo hall for years that was upstairs. I’d skate every Friday night for years then come up for late night bingo. My mom Jeannie was one of peoples favorite callers. The bingo community was tight.

Byron Darden September 9, 2022 at 1:08 PM  

I was one of the many skaters, coaches and skating enthusiast who graced the doors of Highland Ice Arena during my residence in the Seattle area. It opened days before my birthday and as it prepares to close its doors, I'm celebrating with the reminder of the brilliance of the sport of skating that lives on within each of us who are fortunate to have taken part. While there may be sadness to see this institution come to its end, I find inexplicable joy in knowing how this sport has enriched so many lives and spilled over to do more of the same for each life we've touched and will continue to touch long after October 15, 2022. May all of us who had the great privilege to skate, continue to draw on the countless skills, life lessons, incredible experiences, and high level of patience we developed on the ice with our deepest gratitude. Thank you to Terry, Gary, Rick, Diana, Mom, and Dad Stephens for their contribution to us all to “Let skating preserve the fitness of youth.”

Anonymous,  September 9, 2022 at 7:03 PM  

Thank you highland. My oldest son, trying out at Mich had his first skate there on his second birthday. I remember a sore back but I remember the moment always. We played many times on both the big and small rink. Sad to see us lose a small rink. Playing cross ice and half ice without lines just isn’t the same.

Anonymous,  September 14, 2022 at 3:17 PM  

Going to miss the drop-ins boys, been a good run. Had that old barn feel. Thanks for all the efforts, finding goalies on random nights. Good times for Kyle, Charlie and I. - JG

Steve Reeve,  September 16, 2022 at 11:31 AM  

I grew up in a neighborhood full of Hockey players and we were only blocks away from the Rink , it was a Great place for us boys to grow up and throw our weight around, spent many hours on ice either practicing or playing in League play, and yes the Stephens Family was always there for us wether they knew you well or not, l will always cherish the Hockey days up at Highland and the people involved. Thank you to the Stephens family,

Anonymous,  September 21, 2022 at 9:58 AM  

Theresa, please stop by to visit us at the rink before we close! We still live near your childhood home.

Ed Goettel,  September 25, 2022 at 9:11 AM  

Very sad to see my second home growing up closing, I truly understand the economics of the decision, I want to thank the Stephens Family for what they provided to many of us, I started playing hockey there the year they opened 1962, I will spare everyone all the stories but do want to make sure Terry and Rick realize the positive effect there Mom and Dad, Herold, Pat, Joe, Leroy, and others had allowing myself and others to skate even when I had no money to pay for it, so in exchange I would work in the skate shop Friday and Saturday nights handing out rental skates, sweeping the lobby floors working in the snack bar, Learning how to run the Zamboni , and the importance of a good clean flooded ice for the following day, They allowed my Dad to make payments on my hockey gear No contract just pay what you can when you can, I could go on and on but also want to thank Rick the Musician who used to practice upstairs and the whole building would be rocking, and Terry the figure skater who would gracefully work on her routine while Dad had one eye on the business and one one his daughter. Thanks to everyone and good luck on your future endeavors.

Anonymous,  October 19, 2022 at 6:02 AM  

Wow, so many good memories at Highland! I truly fell in love with skating at Highland and it lasted for 40 years! I remember many a boot fitting with Rick and Diana. All the pretty dresses and skating outfits I bought there are still stored in a box that I will forever cherish.

Thank you for the memories Stephens family! Best to you and in the next phase of life. Dwanna Cooper

Anonymous,  April 30, 2023 at 11:59 AM  

I came over to Seattle in 1973 or 74 from the UK on the return leg of a competition, between Blackpool Figure Skating Club & Seattle Skating Club- "Sea-Pool". It was a fantastic experience and the first time I'd skated on a rink that big. I performed badly in the Competition but nevertheless had great memories of The Arena & Seattle. I took the USFSA Prelim test while there, it was wonderful.

Jim Bailey,  March 2, 2024 at 6:57 PM  

Great memories from my childhood. I started out skating at the Ballard Ice Arena that was co-owned by Jimmy Stephens and Gordie Hislop. Worked in the skate shop and helped cleaning the ice for skating time. Learned broom hockey and watched Harold Sowell sprinkle water on the ice for curling events. I followed Jimmy when he broke away from Ballard to build Highland. It was one of my first paid jobs. Helped with painting and laying ice foundation pipes during the construction phase. Then worked in the skate shop and snack bar for a while after opening. The day of the grand opening is etched in my memory. Proud to be part of the history..... Jim Bailey

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