Winona Lake officials discuss ice rink during public hearing

The latest rendering of what the new pavilion in Winona Lake will look like once it is built. (Photo provided)

Town leaders met with the public Tuesday night in Winona Lake to discuss the up and coming ice rink project. The rink, along with a multi-use pavilion, will be built in the old location of the Billy Sunday Tabernacle on Park Street, across from the Winona Lake Post Office.

The meeting was open to the public with only a handful of residents showing up, while others attended via Zoom. The purpose of the meeting was to bring the public up to speed on what is going on with the project and answer any questions that residents had.

Overall, it will be a 180 by 120 foot pavilion with a 120 by 60 foot ice rink in the center of it. The cost of the project is $6.5 million, with a helping hand from the K21 Health Foundation giving the village $1.5 million. The pavilion project will be under WL Ice, LLC, who was the only bidder on a proposal for the project.

Several residents had general questions about the pavilion regarding heating and parking, but some more of the discussed questions involved management of the facility and the contract for the facility.

On the contract question, one resident was worried that WL Ice could drop out of the project too early and put all of the burden onto the town to finish the project.

Town Attorney Adam Turner said Winona Lake and WL Ice entered into a Build Operate Transfer statute, which entered the town into a “package deal” with WL Ice who will be responsible for completion of the project before any transfer happens to the town. A final agreement still has yet to be signed, but under that agreement, WL Ice is responsible for up to two days after completion of the project, then can turn things over to the town.

As far as the costs go, Town Manager Craig Allebach said they will look toward TIF money along with fundraising. Allebach said that they will look into forming a committee to put together fundraising efforts and reach out to the Kosciusko County Community Foundation for a partnership, along with those businesses part of the Villages at Winona and other area companies.

About half way through the public comment, Suzie Light spoke on behalf of Alan Tio from KEDCO, who is currently deployed in the Middle East. Tio’s message was, “KEDCO supports the effort to build a multi-purpose facility that provides a fun, healthy winter activity with an ice rink in the winter and a venue that can host concerts and anchor festivals all to enhance the quality of life for many Kosciusko County residents. In addition, this facility provides our community as a possible destination for tourism and recreation enthusiasts. It’s a good addition to our trail systems.”

Light went on to add her own perspective saying the idea of an ice rink has been the subject the three different Kosciusko Leadership Academy white papers. She said it’s thrilling to see another KLA white paper coming to fruition and congratulates the prior cadets who had put these ideas together. She is thrilled to see the growth happening in Winona Lake.

Later in the meeting, Allebach said the project was a little behind schedule and need to get things moving quick. He mentioned the initial opening date was in November, which gives WL Ice time to build the structure while giving the town time to raise more money and have things operational by that time.

As far as events go, Allebach said they will start things slow with skating lessons and get Warsaw Community School elementary students involved as part of physical education classes. He said the idea comes from Fort Wayne Community Schools, who have held similar events for students at the city’s Headwaters Park. After the initial start, they will look at concerts, weddings and other events for the warmer months.

While the rink will not be a regulation size rink, which is 200 feet by 85 feet by NHL standards or 200 by 100 by Olympic standards, it should still give enough space for smaller competitions such as three one three according to Nick Hauck, manager of Villages at Winona.

An agreement is expected to be approved by the town council at their meeting on March 16th.