MINER - Figure skaters, ice hockey players, ice sports parents and coaches met with Miner city officials and residents Tuesday to pitch their idea for a multi-purpose facility with a full-sized ice rink.
About 30 people attended the public hearing for the proposed convention-recreation center held before the regular Board of Alderman meeting.
Parents and coaches of figure skaters and ice hockey players have formed the SEMO Youth Ice Rink Foundation to raise money to help build a rink in the area and have a Web site at www.buildtherink.org.
"We've been looking at several pieces of property," said Robin Pace. Among these are a piece of land south of the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores, land behind the RaudMont Inn, 13 acres located between the two Interstate 55 interchanges, and 40 acres at Miner's industrial park.
"We know the people of Miner would like to have a convention center," Pace said. A convention center, however, would only provide "sporadic revenue," according to Pace, while a multi-purpose facility featuring a full-sized ice rink would provide a "numerous array" of revenue sources.
An ice rink, according to supporters, would draw people from four states as it would be the only facility of its type between St. Louis and Memphis.
The ice could be covered with a floor for use as an indoor soccer field or a convention center. "We're talking about year-round revenue," Pace said. It typically takes between three to six hours to make the conversion, depending on the size of the crew.
Ice sports enthusiasts formerly had to travel great distances or make-do with the two-thirds-sized ice rink at the Galleria in Cape Girardeau.
The Galleria's ice rink closed May 10, 2003, for major repairs, according to Jean Diemer, as it was "at the end of its life" after 20 years of use. It was reopened for about two weeks in the fall before other equipment failures persuaded the owners, who were ready to retire anyway, to close it down for good.
Additionally, older hockey teams were not able to hold games there because the rink was not full-sized and figure skaters could not hold performances there like they could with a full-sized rink.
Supporters said that while they are probably just dreaming, it's possible that area schools or colleges could someday expand to include ice sports or the rink could even attract a minor league ice hockey franchise in addition to being able to provide a place for private lessons, summer camps, and events for children with special needs.
Glen Hinkebein of Cape Girardeau, president of the Ice Hockey Association, said hockey teams in Poplar Bluff "feel this is the perfect place" for a full-sized rink as well as teams from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Illinois. "This is the best place for an ice rink to draw them."
Asked about the possibility of adding other features and facilities, Pace said the only limitation is how much money the citizens of Miner wish to spend. "I would not want to overextend," she advised.
The full-sized rink proposed by supporters, which would have 16,000 square feet just for the ice, would cost between $1.6 million and $1.8 million.
The plans include a pro shop. "That's also going to generate revenue," said Miner's Police Chief Roger Moore.
"As people skate more, they tend to want their own skates," Hinkebein said. A typical ice hockey tournament brings in around 150 players - many of which inevitably forget some piece of required equipment, according to supporters.
Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Missy Marshall said they would also need lodging and "places to eat, places to shop."
"We really feel this will put Miner on the map - we really do," Pace said.
"If we build it, we won't have to go to St. Louis anymore," said Dr. John Cooley.
The hockey league and figure skaters each spent $22,000 in ice fees last year, according to Hinkebein. Ice fees typically run around $150 per hour.
"There is an active skating group," said Hinkebein. He advised someone needs to "strike while the iron is hot" because there are "at least over 100 kids right now" who participate in ice sports while "every year there's not an ice rink in the area, that group gets smaller."
He explained parents typically won't drive all the way to St. Louis to start a child that isn't already involved in an ice sport.
"Our dream is to have a year-round program for hockey," said Cooley.
Jim Schwaninger, Scott County economic developer, said the county would be happy to support such an endeavor, but city officials should research things like liability, operational costs and reduced rates for residents.
Mayor Mitch Thompson said "the liability issue is a big concern."
Supporters said, however, that figure skaters and hockey leagues are required to have their own insurance, so liability insurance would be something to research primarily for open session skating.
Pace said church groups and other groups would generate revenue with events as well as advertising like at ball fields.
Schwaninger said he is looking into the possibility of grants to assist the project, and the proposal's supporters said the Blues professional ice hockey team has programs that support ice rinks.