FALMOUTH — The façade is simple, but handsome with CASCO BAY ARENA spelled out in large lettering.

Inside, there are a few stools for spectators, and four sparse locker rooms with no showers; comfortable, but not extravagant.

Walk out of the lobby and into the arena itself, and you notice the difference in temperature. What appear to be walls in each corner of the building are actually chain link fences, with dark meshing to block the wind.

Officially considered an “open-air” ice rink, the humble Casco Bay Arena has made a big difference for the greater Portland ice hockey community.

The ice-time crunch that youth hockey and school teams faced when looking for a place to play and practice has been lessened. The Casco Bay Arena opened last October.

“It’s a Spartan rink with everything you need,” said Thomas Marjerison, president of the arena’s board of directors. The rink was built by donations solicited by the Casco Bay Hockey Association (CBHA). He said it provided 1,100 hours of ice time this past hockey season.

High school teams, which before could not practice every day – or only at certain times – found times at the Casco Bay Arena. And those forgotten skaters – the “extra” players on the junior varsity – actually had a place to call home.

But the biggest beneficiary of the arena is the CBHA itself, and its 900 skaters.

“We were able to add 650 hours of ice time,” said John Veilleux, president of the CBHA board of directors. “Essentially, every team got one extra hour of ice a week. We added skills instruction – programming that we always wanted to have.”

And the new arena meant more convenience for families, who only had to drive to Portland (Troubh Arena), Falmouth (Family Ice Center and Casco Bay Arena) and Yarmouth (North Yarmouth Academy). In previous years practices were sometimes scheduled at the University of New England in Biddeford. (Veteran CBHA parents can remember jaunts to Hebron Academy).

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Marjerison said the facility was built for $2.1 million – including the $25,000 used Zamboni bought from the Cross Insurance Arena.

And the big plus is the more manageable ice times. CBHA eliminated 6 a.m. sessions on weekends.

“The facility is great,” said David Shapiro, the father of a youth hockey player. “We were able to have consistent ice time throughout the entire season.”

Shapiro is also the Greely High athletic director. His boys’ and girls’ teams usually use the next-door Family Ice Center, but Casco Bay Arena has still been a plus.

“It definitely helped us deal with some scheduling issues,” Greely girls’ coach Nate Guerin said. “We did not have any days during the week where we were unable to practice.

“The limitations at the new rink would be locker room size and absence of showers but for our purposes, CBA proved to be a huge resource and a great practice facility.”

Likewise, Yarmouth High regularly uses the Travis Roy Arena at North Yarmouth Academy, but has also headed to Falmouth for practices.

“With Travis Roy Arena, our practice times are all morning slots,” Yarmouth Athletic Director Susan Robbins said. “The time at CBA allowed us to get some afternoon time slots a few times a week, which helped our kids get on the ice more, and also rest in the mornings.”

Other high schools, like Mt. Ararat and Brunswick, which only got early morning practice times at Bowdoin College, also used the Casco Bay Arena.

Robbins and Cape Elizabeth Athletic Director Jeff Thoreck said the new arena has benefited their junior varsity teams.

“We have 32 players in our program (varsity and junior varsity),” Thoreck said. “In the past, we had them all (practice at one time). The new arena gives JV players a sheet of ice for themselves, room to skate and giving them time to develop.”

The new arena also set aside Friday nights for junior varsity games – giving schools set times, instead of scrambling to look for extra ice time for a JV game.

The arena is on land that used to hold a public outdoor rink. The arena leases the land from the Town of Falmouth for $1 a year.

Marjerison said the facility was built for $2.1 million – including the $25,000 used Zamboni bought from the Cross Insurance Arena.

The open air aspect was less expensive, and helps maintain the ice with little or no electricity.

“We did have some very cold practices,” Greely’s Guerin said. “But for the most part, weather was not a factor … Overall, I think it’s a great facility.”

The arena will stay open year-round, but not for hockey. The ice will be removed next week and the arena will sponsor box lacrosse leagues for players in grades from kindergarten through high school. Box lacrosse is a style of play popular in Canada – played in rinks like Casco Bay Arena, when the ice is taken out.

Veilleux said the non-profit arena is right on budget, in terms of operating expenses and paying down debt. He’s hoping box lacrosse “takes off and gives us a buffer” in terms of generating income for future maintenance, while giving kids more opportunity to play.