Residents want more ice at new rec complex

South Suburban would like to increase capacity, but three sheets too costly

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South Suburban Parks and Recreation District unveiled tentative plans for their new recreation complex in mid-September, which would replace the South Suburban Ice Arena and the district’s administration offices, but some residents worry the plans don’t increase capacity for ice hockey and figure skating.

The 200,000-square-foot complex at the southwest corner of County Line Road and Holly Street would feature a fieldhouse, gymnasium, offices, food court and two sheets of ice — the same number being replaced with the closure of the old ice arena, said Rob Hanna, South Suburban’s executive director. The center is expected to break ground in the spring and be completed by December 2020.

The $50 million project would become South Suburban’s fifth recreation center, and would replace the disc golf course currently on the site. The district already owns the land.

“We looked at the cost of simply renovating the ice arena, which is now 50 years old, and discovered that it would actually be cheaper to build a new one,” Hanna said.

That’s because the current ice arena now sits over a layer of soil rendered permanently frozen by the rinks, Hanna said. The ice is causing upheaval beneath the rinks, and it’s unknown how deep the ice goes. Thawing the ice could take years, Hanna said, and simply cause more upheaval.

Members of the public have expressed concern that the new recreation center wouldn’t increase the district’s number of ice sheets, Hanna said, by replacing the ice arena’s two sheets with two sheets at the new center. Many residents are hoping for three, he said.

South Suburban previously reached out to the Highlands Ranch Metro District for a partnership, requesting $10 million to pay for an additional sheet of ice. The metro district rejected the proposal in July, with board members saying they didn’t see the benefit to the community.

The call for more ice continues.

“I’m here to beg and grovel for a third sheet,” said Wendy Ferrelli, whose daughter is a figure skater and whose son plays hockey. “They need a place to just have fun on the ice — just to skate around after school. It doesn’t always have to be classes and lessons.”

“Our market analysis showed we could justify a third sheet,” Hanna said, “but it just comes down to cost. We have so many priorities in the district right now. Goodson (Recreation Center) alone needs $5 million in upgrades.”

Hockey is growing in popularity, said Dirk Doty, who runs the district’s hockey programs, and the district’s leagues are nearly at capacity.

“We’re on the verge of putting folks on a waiting list,” Doty said.

Still, he said he’s excited about the new facility, because the old one is showing its age.

“Players love to tear the place up,” Doty said. “My guys are slamming into the sides, shooting pucks all over the place. Hockey’s a rough sport, you know.”

Finding time to schedule skating classes is getting more difficult, said Gerry Lane, who runs the district’s figure skating program.

“Now that the school districts are moving to these later start times, the kids get out of school later, and there are only so many hours in a day,” Lane said.

Hanna said he’d love to build three sheets of ice, and the plans could easily be modified to accommodate a third.

“Hey, if some benefactor or member of the Avalanche wants to see their name on an ice skating rink, we’ve got naming rights for sale,” Hanna said.

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