By Marty Farmer
With a pair of undefeated high school football teams and a burgeoning youth football program in town, football is justifiably all the rage in Oak Park these days.
Ice rink sports enthusiasts however, will be happy to know that the Paul Hruby Ice Arena at Ridgeland Common will operate year-round, providing open skating, figure skating and hockey lessons and leagues when Ridgeland Common reopens in 2014.
The park board of the Park District of Oak Park made its decision to keep the ice rink open all year at its committee of the whole meeting in September.
"Since planning for Ridgeland Common began in 2007, many residents have voiced their desire for year-round ice. We have listened to our residents and, after careful consideration, the park board accepted staff's recommendation to provide a 12-month ice operation," park board President Jessica Bullock stated on the park district website.
The decision to operate the Paul Hruby Ice Arena year-round was reached after the park board reviewed data from multiple ice arenas open 12 months a year. Community feedback also played a major role in the decision to offer skating and hockey options for Oak Park residents along with residents of neighboring suburbs and Chicago.
"The comments we have received have all been positive," said Diane Stanke, the park district's director of marketing and customer service. "A number of coaches have reacted with excitement towards the future hockey season. In addition to hockey and figure skating lessons, we hope to offer some unique programs in the summer months such as broom ball leagues or classes, curling and speed skating. We also hope to offer more open skate and family skate time slots."
Due to the energy efficiency of the renovated Ridgeland Common, the Paul Hruby Ice Arena is expected to operate at a financially viable utility cost.
Overall, the Ridgeland Common Renovation Project is progressing along as expected, according to Stanke. Ridgeland Common was originally built in 1962. Discussions about renovating the facility and grounds began in 2007.
"The Ridgeland Common Renovation Project is currently on time and on budget," she said. "Curbing is being installed around the sports field and utility work is currently taking place. The new tot pool is taking shape. The wood roof in the interior was bead-blasted, bringing it back to its natural look."
Since March, renovations have been underway including expansion of the ice rink to official size (85-by-200 feet); a new pool and ice rink locker rooms; three multi-purpose rooms for programs/rentals; a synthetic turf field equipped with new lighting and fencing for baseball, softball and soccer; a relocated dog park; new children's water feature; new pool gutters, mechanicals and pipe replacement.
The synthetic turf field and dog park are expected to open in spring 2014, while the Ridgeland Common facility is slated to reopen in summer 2014. It remains to be seen whether the ice rink and swimming pool will open simultaneously or in a staggered fashion next summer.