By Sue Botos
Backers of the Rocky River High School hockey team have scored another goal in the process of updating the locker room facilities at Hamilton Ice Arena.
At a brief September meeting, the city Planning Commission approved drawings for a 2,500-square-foot addition to the north side of the arena, which will give the varsity players some relief from the cramped, aging quarters they now use.
Dave Kysela, representing the hockey backers, said that the addition will include restrooms, coaches’ rooms and an expanded locker area. Currently, the facilities can only house equipment for 10 players out of a 35-man roster, and are shared with the city youth hockey program.
“We have had no incidents, but the varsity players need some space and they need a place to dry their equipment,” Kysela said. He added that often, the area is divided by only a “shower curtain” while both high school and youth players are using the locker room.
While the new facility will still be used by the youth program, Kysela said it would not be used concurrently.
“This will be a unique facility,” said parks and recreation Director Chris Mehling. “It will not only allow us to provide new amenities to the hockey team, but it will be used by others. In addition to the varsity hockey team, the facility will be available for other city events like the biannual ice show.” He added that only Rocky River teams and groups would have access.
Mehling added that the state-of-the-art locker area may keep players at the high school who otherwise might be tempted to go to a program boasting better amenities.
Another unique feature of the project is the fact that the ice rink is owned by the city and the hockey team is affiliated with the school district. A lease agreement is currently being drawn up between city and school officials. Backers have been meeting with Mayor Pam Bobst, finance Director Michael Thomas and law Director Andy Beamer, as well as Superintendent Michael Shoaf and the school’s legal counsel, on the agreement. City and school officials have said they totally support the project.
The group of hockey backers have been working on the locker room project for about a year, but at the June school board meeting, parent Dave Mallet stated that it had been kept under wraps until a commitment had been received from the city and schools.
Although officials have been mum on the actual cost of the work, backers reported in December that estimates were running at about $250,000. Mehling stated that preliminary work has been based upon that figure.
Private funding is expected to bear the brunt of the project’s financial load, and Mallet reported to the school board during the summer that over $30,000 had been raised, with a hoped-for goal of $50,000. Sponsorships, such as those solicited for landscaping and other work at Rocky River High School, will also be explored as a funding source.
Thomas, when reached for comment, stated that the city’s portion of the project will amount to about $75,000. He said the money will come from the “cable franchise fee,” which is 3 percent of the charge to users of AT&T’s U-verse offerings. Thomas added that the cable franchise fee is dedicated to parks and recreation improvements.
Pending approval by the city design review board, architect Chuck McGettrick told the Planning Commission that he anticipates a Nov. 1 start, and six months for construction. He said the work will have “little impact” on the recreation center’s programs.