ROCKFORD — A plan to close the Riverview Ice House and expand the Carlson Ice Area has been put on hold after a civic group announced it wants to renovate the downtown arena.
The group, called Save Riverview Ice House, says it has a plan to raise $6 million to renovate the facility.
“On behalf of the Save Riverview Ice House coalition, I want to thank all the citizens who let their voices be heard on our website as well as via our Change.org petition,” said Jay Graham, member of Save Riverview Ice House, wrote in a statement. “And I want to thank the Park District for listening. Riverview is an important asset in our downtown economy, our urban neighborhoods and the entire regional ice skating community. It’s good to know we can join forces to restore it and keep it open for generations to come.”
The Rockford Park District, which owns the Madison Street arena, said in a release that the plan to close Riverview would free up limited operational and capital dollars to invest more in community benefit areas such as neighborhood parks, youth programs, and trails.
The district says the arena, at 45 years old, is well beyond its lifespan. Its refrigeration systems are obsolete and an upgrade will cost about $6 million. Officials say Riverview needs new mechanical and refrigeration systems, hockey boards and glass, and renovations throughout the facility.
In addition, the District would need to secure a sustainable revenue stream to help offset the heavy tax subsidy of $351,958 currently needed to operate two ice facilities.
“The tax dollars currently utilized to operate two ice facilities will only continue to grow, and do not include additional tax dollars needed for capital repair and replacement needs each year,” the park district wrote in the release.
Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine says the district has been approached by several local organizations interested in providing funding to keep the downtown rink open. In response, the Board of Commissioners announced that they will wait to see if this interest can result in the $6 million need for renovations and secure continuous revenue stream to offset subsidize both ice facilities.
“We have a long history and a lot of experience working alongside other generous organizations, businesses, partners, and donors,” Sandine said. “It’s thanks to the generosity of others that the Park District is where it is today, and that we are a three-time national Gold Medal award-winning organization that has received national excellence in financial reporting awards for 23 years in a row. We are so thankful to those that have invested in and supported their Rockford Park District. We love Riverview Ice House and are proud of the heavy investment the District has made over the years in the heart of the city and downtown Rockford. We would love to keep Riverview Ice House open for generation after generation to enjoy. This facility is an important part of our history, and remains a priority today but we need help so we can have strong neighborhoods and strong facilities for years to come.”
When the plan to consolidate the two rinks was announced earlier this month, a group Save Riverview IceHouse submitted a letter to the Board of Commissioners, asking for a chance to secure funding for facility updates.
Commissioners said if potential financial opportunities do not work out, the district will have to go back to the original recommendation of adding ice to Carlson Ice Arena, closing Riverview Ice House, and repurposing the Riverview property.