What do you do with a 41-year-old facility that needs updating?
That was the question before commissioners of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District at the Sept. 5 Committee of the Whole meeting. This was the first of what will be ongoing discussions on the upkeep of the H-F Ice Arena built in 1976.
The question is now at the forefront because the way ice is made at the facility is obsolete and costs rise every time staff tries to purchase the R-22 refrigerant, said Executive Director Debbie Kopas.
“We have to make decisions so we can run (the ice arena) as best we can or renovate it or look at other uses,” Kopas told the commissioners.
The park district has a $1 million estimate for arena fixes.
Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 gave the park district the land at 777 Kedzie Ave. in Flossmoor in 1974 with a stipulation that students get free use of the facility between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. for 540 hours a year, said Shon Washington, the ice arena’s manager. H-F uses the time for ice skating physical education classes.
It isn’t as though the park district is losing rental money due to this arrangement. Washington said those hours normally are not taken by outside groups. Hockey clubs and school teams rent ice time in the evening and late night hours. The park district uses the facility for figure skating and hockey programs.
One complication commissioners must address is that the contract conveying the land to the park district stipulates the high school should have a say in any improvements to the facility and site, or revisions in its use.
Board President Steve Johnson said before the park board can meet with any other group, commissioners must first have a vision of what they plan to do with the ice arena.
“We have to figure out what’s the best use for the community and for them (H-F),” he said. Once commissioners have a vision, the park district would begin discussions on “what we want to do and here’s why it would add value to the program you offer at the high school,” Johnson added.