Brooklyn Park Mayor: Ice Rink Conversion Plan Not Done Deal
A plan to convert a city ice rink into basketball courts remains a hot topic in Brooklyn Park. More than a dozen community members addressed the issue at this week’s Brooklyn Park City Council meeting.
Many residents spoke in favor of a plan to convert one of the two ice rinks at the Community Activity Center into three multi-use courts for basketball, volleyball and pickleball.
“We need this. The youth and our areas need this,” said Cynthia Hill, one of the Brooklyn Park residents who spoke. “It’s time for a renovation to reflect the communities it will be serving.”
Legislation brought forward by Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, would provide $5 million in state funding for the ice rink conversion.
Those who spoke, including coaches, say there’s not a single city-run facility in Brooklyn Park dedicated to basketball.
“Everytime we have practices and everything, we have to go to Maple Grove, we have to go to Crystal, we have to go to New Hope, we are in Robbinsdale,” said Durray Ward, a local basketball coach, who started the Forward Thinking Foundation for youth. “That’s kind of tough for a lot of the families that are in my program because they are mostly residents from Brooklyn Park.”
The Community Activity Center has been in existence for 40 years. The facility does have a gymnasium near the National Guard office, but Ward said it’s tough to rent out with limited availability.
Others pointed out that Brooklyn Park has grown by 30,000 residents in past 30 years, but amenities haven’t kept up.
“This plan is the most sensible plan,” said resident Heather Zemien. “We have money. We should use it. It’s the most progressive plan. It brings us into the future.”
Mayor: Plan ‘Should Not Need Be a Zero-Sum Game’
While residents who spoke supported the need for multi-use courts, some residents wondered why the city would have to eliminate an ice sheet.
“I believe it should come through addition, not subtraction,” said Sarah Fercho, a Brooklyn Park resident.
Fercho pointed out how the city of Anoka approved plans for a sports dome that would contain full-sized basketball courts. She urged the council to explore building a similar facility.
“This isn’t about one ice rink or three courts. This is about the future of Brooklyn Park, the reputation of our city as a destination and not a drive-through or pass-through to another city with more amenities,” said Fercho.
Julie Schulte, who has two figure-skating daughters, said losing an ice rink would be a detriment to the Brooklyn Park-based Three Rivers Figure Skating Club. She also raised concerns about how losing a rink would significantly impact the city’s ability to host hockey tournaments.
“Ice slot times are highly valued and in demand and generate revenue for the city of Brooklyn Park,” said Schulte. “I just think there are other options on the table that we should explore together.”
Brooklyn Park Mayor Hollies Winston addressed residents saying the plan “should not be a zero-sum game” and that all options are being explored.
“Once we get a handle on the various options, it will be brought before council, and there will also be time for engagement from the community,” said Winston.
The Brooklyn Park mayor added that demographics will be a factor in the eventual decision.
“This is ultimately what’s best for youth,” he said.