Officials discuss Mill Creek ice-rink prospects

By Elise Franco

A 2003 report estimated repairs and replacements to cost more than $1 million.

CANFIELD — It’s possible Mill Creek MetroParks’ outdoor ice rink could reopen, the MetroParks commissioners say.

The question of reopening the rink, which closed several years ago after officials determined repairs would be too costly, was raised during Monday’s MetroParks board meeting at the MetroParks Farm on Columbiana-Canfield Road.

Nick Dubos of Pittsburgh told the commissioners he grew up in Campbell and spent many winter days and nights skating at the rink. Dubos said he would love to see it open again and thinks it’s doable.

“Leaving it sit idle is not within the parks’ mission,” he said, adding, “I bet there are a lot of people in this area who would like to give to something like that.”

The rink, on Mill Creek Park’s Wick Recreation Area on Youngstown’s West Side, opened in 1968 and was closed in March 2002 because of a coolant leak and many other equipment issues, according to Vindicator archives.

MetroParks Commissioner Virginia Dailey said that for many years before it closed, park employees did as much work as they could to extend the life of the outdated refrigeration unit and rink itself.

“We did an outstanding job each year to keep it open,” she said. “It was an unfortunate combination of things that made the decision to close the rink.”

Dailey said that in the years following the closure, the park board looked into several options for a temporary outdoor rink, but none proved successful.

During the last few years the rink was open, the park lost more than $60,000 annually in operating costs, she said.

Dailey said the main concern now is the cost to renovate the former rink and make it fully operational.

“The rink as we knew it is gone,” she said. “The concrete pad and infrastructure is gone.”

The park recently purchased a snow-making machine for the sledding hill, and Dailey said water and electric lines were rerouted from the ice rink to the snow machine.

“We would have to start from scratch because all of that infrastructure is gone,” she said. “It does break our hearts when we lost a recreational facility like that, especially one we all love.”

In 2003, a draft report outlining the cost to renovate and reopen the facility was presented to the board by former park Executive Director Susan Dicken and other park staff.

The report estimated repairs and replacements to cost more than $1 million and included cooling equipment, putting a roof over the rink to protect it from the elements, buying a new ice-grooming machine and 300 new pairs of skates, and repairing the rink pavilion and making it handicap-accessible.

Dubos said the board should take another look at that figure and try to find a way to make reopening the rink a reality.

“Can’t we find sponsors to help get involved with this outdoor facility?” he asked. “It’s the perfect opportunity with now five commissioners and a new executive director to reexamine that.”

Dailey said though reopening the ice rink isn’t in the board’s Master Plan for 2010, the commissioners will have serious discussions about it.

“I’m well aware of the fund-raising opportunities we have,” she said.

Board President Jay Macejko agreed that bringing focus back to the ice rink should be a priority of the board in the near future.

“Your request isn’t falling on deaf ears,” he said. “I promise the discussion will continue, and if there’s any way possible while staying in the realm of fiscal responsibility, we’ll do it.”

Macejko said sponsorship and collaboration with other entities could be the best way to secure funding if the project were to move forward.

“That’s definitely the avenue we’d have to pursue,” he said.

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