Paul Hruby Ice Arena at Ridgeland Common

The most sought-after element in the planned Ridgeland Common renovation seemed to be an ice rink that would be useable all year long, according to speakers at an informational meeting Thursday night.

About 40 people attended the meeting at the Oak Park Conservatory, with many having to stand while they listened to a project update from the architects. Don McKay, of Nagle Hartray Architecture, showed slides that detailed the schematic design inside and outside the building.

Though none of the dozen speakers took issue with the design—many said they liked what they saw—most of them wanted the ice rink at the facility at Lake Street and Ridgeland Avenue to be used year-round. Currently, it’s open from the end of September to the end of March. Park District Executive Director Gary Balling said synthetic turf is put in the rink’s place after the annual ice show in March and the space is used for a sports camp in the summer.

Rosalind Giulietti said she’s a parent of skaters, and Ridgeland Common is the only facility in the metropolitan area without year-round ice. Mike Sankowski, a hockey dad, said he thought having a rink open all year would make a big difference in the quality of players. The better they get, the longer they’ll stay in the program, which will generate more revenue, he said.

And Liz Fischer, whose family has spent “hundreds of hours” at the ice rink, proposed a second sheet of ice in addition to one that’s open all year. Fischer pointed out the health benefits of skating and the community atmosphere the rink creates. She said she knows families that spend $3,000 per player per season to play hockey at year-round facilities in other communities.

Balling said the rink was being constructed in a way that it could operate year-round, but no decision has been made about whether to keep it open. He did not have an estimate of how much more money that would add to the $23.5 million expected renovation cost. The plan does call for an expansion of the rink to make it a regulation size of 85-by-200 feet.

Balling said park district staff would be putting together an operations plan that will look at the best use of the rink area during the summer months. He said a request for a second rink and proposal another to enclose the park district’s two pools were not within the scope of the project.

Approval of the schematic design is scheduled to be voted on at the park board’s April 5 meeting.

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