Brooklyn Park Considers Converting Ice Rink into Multi-Use Courts
Brooklyn Park is looking at converting one of its ice rinks at the Community Activity Center into multi-use courts. Nothing is set in stone yet, but the proposal is attracting community attention.
The Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center houses two ice arenas. Ice time is rented out by groups and clubs, and community members can come to the space to free skate. It also has a gym that is shared with the National Guard.
Families who use the rinks say they are concerned about the conversion because they already struggle to find ice time, while families in search of court space think this could offer a sense of relief.
Both say more space overall would be ideal.
A Place to Play
Athletics give kids the freedom to play.
Rachel Lorenzen is a member of the Park Center Traveling Basketball League.
She said basketball is a vital resource for Brooklyn Park kids, but access to courts for both clubs and pickup hoops is scarce.
“I just think, on an everyday level, these kids are just doing better because they are engaged,” Lorenzen said. “There should be a means for them to go play pickup, and we don’t have that in this community for our kids.”
As the parent of a 7th-grade basketball player, Lorenzen said she and the club spends years searching for spaces for the kids to play. Every space they’ve found so far, she said, is temporary.
Lorenzen said many club parents struggle to pay the fees associated with travel basketball. Ever-changing practice locations due to high demand for court space offer another hurdle.
“Parents who have the means help parents who don’t have the means,” Lorenzen said. “It is that bad here in this community.”
CAC Improvement Project
Recently, Brooklyn Park proposed a change to its Community Activity Center. That change could alleviate some of the club’s need for space.
Brad Tullberg, recreation and parks director in Brooklyn Park, said the CAC improvement project would cost $15 million total. It contains three components, which he presented at the Brooklyn Park City Council’s work session on Sep. 5.
The first component is a $6.1 million improvement to entrances and corridors at the CAC. Another one is a $2 million improvement to the parking lot and exterior grounds.
The third is the conversion of Arena One to multi-court gym space, which would cost $6.5 million. Arena One, which is not used in the summer, would be converted to three multi-use courts. Those uses include basketball, voleyball, pickleball and use for other events.
Tullberg said this plan has been in the works for awhile. The 2018 park system plan focused on aquatics and the possible addition of a gym and fieldhouse.
The department considered constructing a new space for gyms and keeping both rinks. That was proposed to cost $12.5 million in 2018.
Tullberg said ice participation numbers are declining and the need for courts is there.
“Community gym space is just as tight as ice space in our community,” Tullberg said.
Three Rivers Figure Skating Club is one of those groups fighting for ice time. Club President Sarah Fercho said taking away one rink from Brooklyn Park leaves skaters out in the cold.
“I think it is important to offer activities across the spectrum,” Fercho said.
The Three Rivers Club, which is comprised of skaters from both in and outside Brooklyn Park, takes up most of the activity center’s annual ice time.
Hockey teams use it too. Its mostly groups based outside Brooklyn Park, including Totino-Grace High School and Wayzata’s Youth Hockey Association.
She said she doesn’t want the argument to be hockey vs. basketball.
“This should not be pitting one sport against the other, this should be talking about what’s the best thing for this community,” Fercho said.
Fercho feels the city has not been communicative about the project. To spread the word, Fercho is a part of the Save Rink One organization.
Fercho said the organization is asking for both rinks and courts and asks that it considers building a new space for courts.
She said the petition had 900 signatures as of Monday night, when the organization brought it to the city council meeting.
Up in the Air
Tullberg said the proposal is more tailored to Brooklyn Park.
“We have another need,” Tullberg said. “We have just evaluated that opportunity for the space we currently have that could be used in a different way.”
The proposal is at a pause currently as the city waits to decide what to do with its fire station. Tullberg said if the fire station moves to the old library location, the then-former fire station could be used as a senior center. That movement could change the look and plans for the Community Activity Center.
Tullberg said he hopes to improve community engagement as the project continues.