Janesville73°

Group proposing new city ice rink

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
May 20, 2009
— A group of hockey enthusiasts has proposed a public-private partnership with the city and other ice arena users to build a new, $4 million facility.

The group will introduce its proposal to the council at its Monday meeting, asking that the city chip in $2.5 million, said Larry Squire, a member of the group. Other members are Mark Robinson, G.R. Lyons and Chris Simonson.


In their proposal, the men wrote that it became apparent to them several months ago that the city's 35-year-old ice arena has major problems with its chilling system, roof and energy efficiency. At the time, the city council was considering whether to spend $200,000 on the rink to attract a Junior A hockey team.


The council has since voted to do so.


But even after the $200,000 is spent, the city will continue to have issues with the chilling system, roof, parking, maintenance and high utility bills, according to the proposal.


The group's proposal indicates the city likely would spend up to $1.5 million on improvements to the existing facility. They believe the money would be better spent on a new ice arena.


The proposal includes design features that add expense but would save energy and maintenance costs in the long term.


The Janesville Youth Hockey Club would lead the project, and the four men would make up the building committee.


The hockey club would commit to kicking off the fundraising effort with $100,000. The building committee would then try to raise the remaining $1.4 million in cash and in-kind donations. Club members also would volunteer sweat equity.


The group hasn't decided who would own the building. One option is for the committee to own the rink and lease it back to the city for a nominal fee, Squire said.


"It all depends on what the city is comfortable with," he said.


The city would operate and maintain the building and receive revenues from groups using it, just as it does now, Squire said.


As part of the lease, the hockey and figure skating club would ask for more input in scheduling.


The group hopes to break ground by the fall, with a completion date of June 2010.


The group proposes that the facility:


-- Be built south of the new baseball diamonds in the Youth Sports Complex.


-- Include one sheet of ice, a mezzanine area to serve as both a warming room for parents and figure skaters and as a dedicated area to sell beer during Junior A games.


-- Be designed to accommodate a second sheet of ice in the future.


The proposal asks that the existing ice arena remain open from October through February until money is raised to install a the second sheet of ice at the new facility.


The hockey club within two years would raise an additional $800,000 to $1 million for the second sheet of ice, after which the existing ice arena would no longer be needed.


"We understand the concern many may have relating to the cost," the proposal reads.


But the rink eventually would have two, full-sized sheets and dedicated locker space for the Junior A team, the Bluebird boys hockey team and the high school girls co-op team, according to the proposal.


Two sheets would allow more than one event simultaneously. No open skates would have to be cancelled, as will happen in the existing facility when the Junior A team plays. No youth would have to practice past 10 p.m., and users could host tournaments and shows, drawing more people to the community.


The second sheet also could be used for other events, such as indoor soccer, by mid-March.


In addition to the $100,000 committed by the hockey club, Squire, Robinson, Lyons and Simonson have commitments totaling $100,000 of the needed $1 million in private funds.


"This level of sponsorship is a direct result of there eventually being a two-sheet rink," according the proposal.


City Manager Eric Levitt said staff is evaluating the proposal.


"I believe that the city in the near future—the next couple of years—will need to either look at a new rink or do major improvements—up to $1 million to $1.5 million—to the current rink if we want to continue to offer that service to the community," he said.


Said Squire: "We want to have a quality facility for a community of 60,000 people and the surrounding area, and this is great for families and kids to have the opportunity … to spend time together.


"That's what Janesville's all about."



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