City Rink Likely To Get More Ice

February 27, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS Chances are good that another sheet of ice will be added to Griff's IceHouse at Belknap Park by September. The city's Planning Commission approved the nearly $2 million expansion of the city-owned rink, which is managed by DP Fox Ventures LLC, and only the City Commission is left to ratify the project. The plan is to wrap a 26,197-square-foot steel building around the ice, a few bleachers, and the refrigeration equipment. The second sheet will be used for adult recreation league play, team practices and public skating. Youth and high school games will continue to be played on the existing sheet. The new building will go up just east of the ice house and the two will be connected.

Part of the project will be paid for through a fund drive being conducted by the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up by DP Fox.

"It's coming along fine. We're doing well," said Lou Rabaut, foundation president and partner at Warner, Norcross & Judd.

"9-11 has obviously put a crimp in a lot of people's fundraising efforts. But the flip side of that, though, is that what we thought this would cost to build, is going to be less than we thought it was going to cost," he added. "That's going to help, pragmatically."

The original goal for the fund drive was $600,000. Rabaut, however, said less was needed now because the cost of the project has been lowered.

The city will contribute $200,000 from the Belknap Ice Arena Capital Fund and will finance the remaining $1.2 million. Assistant City Manager Gregory Sundstrom said money from the city's General Operating Fund would not be used for the project, and that the city would own the building once it is completed.

DP Fox Vice President of Project Development Tom Rothwell told the Business Journal that work should begin next month and be completed by September. He added that the project was driven by a need for more ice time.

"People like skating at Belknap. It has some of the best ice in the city, at least that's what I hear. I'm not a skater. So we're going to duplicate that ice system, but it's going to be more bare bones than the existing arena," he said.

The new building will also mean more ice time for the Griffins Youth Foundation, which partners with the city on a number of skating programs.

"Right now, we can only get two hours a week," said Rabaut of the foundation's ice time at Belknap. "We're going to go from two to 11, and we're looking at some really creative programming, like Special Olympics and girls' hockey. We're actually going to try to have a Girl Scouts hockey league.

"We're going to try to have a hockey program for people who just can't afford to have their kids in hockey. We'd like to have a 45er program. Fourth and fifth graders can come out for some glorified pond hockey. We'll give them the equipment to use, we'll throw a puck on the ice, and we'll see them when they're done."

Those interested in contributing should make out a check to the GR Griffins Youth Foundation and send it to the foundation at Suite 500, 200 Ottawa NW, 49504.

The Bouma Corp. is the project's general contractor. Rothwell said Bouma sees the work as a community project and has lowered its price so the building can go up at a lower cost, and has also asked all of its subcontractors to cut their fees, too.

"Bouma, as well as its subs, have done a very good job of lowering their fees on this project significantly from where we started, and that has helped us get this thing done," he said. "They've all been wonderful in terms of helping us."

Driesenga & Associates is engineering the project. Wolverine Building Inc. will put up the building.

DP Fox has been managing Griff's IceHouse since 1996 and could continue to do so until 2011 under the current contract. In 1998, the company paid for an expansion of the locker room. Sundstrom told planning commissioners that the city has been pleased with the way DP Fox has run the rink.

"They have provided professional management of our ice arena by ensuring open access for citizens, provided sound fiscal management and assured responsible stewardship of an important city asset," he said.

City commissioners are expected to vote on the expansion next month.

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