The is opening its just-built outdoor ice skating rink today or Saturday.
Park district officials hope the rink, which was built with staff labor and some used parts to save money, will meet the public's growing demand for ice time. The rink, which has a refrigerated base and can be used in temperatures up to 52 degrees F, is located at , at Ballard Road and Cumberland Street. It's west of the main building, which houses an indoor ice rink.
“Ice just took off. There wasn’t enough ice to satisfy customers,” said Ray Czarnik, president of the Niles Park District board. Demand has been high ever since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2009, he said.
Rink built on site of scrapped pool
The park district shut down the outdoor pool at IceLand a couple of years ago because it was sustaining losses of $60,000 to $80,000 annually, said Park District Executive Director Joe LoVerde.
About one year ago, the board made the decision to build the outdoor ice rink on the site of the former pool.
The board did not seek public input, LoVerde said, but added that staff members felt that the community would be well-served with an outdoor skating rink and that the decision process began with a staff recommendation from IceLand.
Cost could have been much higher
Overall costs for the outdoor rink are projected to be $200,000, according to Czarnik, adding the price would have been four times that if the district hadn't used its own staff's labor and bought some used materials.
While he didn’t give specific numbers, he said he expects the outdoor rink to be profitable within the first year. The park district approved a $12.4 million annual budget for 2012 at its November meeting, which represented a 2.2 percent increase over the previous year.
During warmer months, the rink will double as a soccer field, which was another idea for the facility, said Ray Czarnik, park district board president. A golf driving range was also considered.
High usage for skating and hockey
Both Maine West and East high school ice hockey teams use the indoor facility, as well as Notre Dame College Prep’s team, he added.
Even though the existing indoor rink offers many public skating times, the rink is booked until March, said Marty Stankowicz, general manager and hockey director at IceLand.
By having the outdoor rink, IceLand staff members hope more patrons have time on the ice, Stankowicz said. The most popular hours are from 6 to 8 pm, he said, adding that between 100 and 200 people come for the public skate times.
IceLand has already gotten some calls to reserve space at the facility, Czarnik said.
Park District officials hope to having a grand opening event within the next couple of weeks. Czarnik said they are considering a one-week period of allowing people to skate for free, in order to try out the facility.
He added the park board welcomes public input, and invited residents to convey suggestions and comments to:
- Ray Czarnik, firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 878-4577, or
- Joe LoVerde, park district executive director, Joe@niles-parks.org or (847) 967-6633.
Pam DeFiglio contributed to this story.