The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Ice Arena Floor Fix: Was community zeal to be better partly to blame?

In Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, City Hall, Viewpoint on March 15, 2008 at 8:17 pm


Long-open sores and deep-tissue bruises that resulted from the financial surprises that came with building the city’s Ice Arena did heal at some point after the arena opened in January 2000.

In recent days, though, the memory of the hurts came back a bit as the City Council approved spending $395,000 to replace piping and the concrete floor in the hockey arena. The contractor also can qualify for up to $20,000 more if he meets a target date this summer for construction completion.

Several comments reached City Hall seeking to find someone to blame for the need to fix the floor – the arena’s second sheet of ice does not need repaired – just eight years after it was installed.

Dave Elgin, the city’s director of public works, points out that warranties extending out eight years don’t exist, and, in fact, for the specialized piping work at ice arenas, warranties typically run a year, he says he has learned. The city has insisted on a 4-year warranty on the new piping and concrete floor, he notes.

Elgin, though, reminds people about the uncommon way in which the city’s Ice Arena was built. A guy with a hockey team approached the city, at the ready to move his team here if only the city could put him in a new arena within a year. The City Council took him up on the offer, a move which necessitated setting aside the usual planning, design and bidding process. Instead, the city used a “design-built” approach with a hand-selected contractor. The design was crafted even as construction began.

All of this brought surprise costs along the way, which drove the projected bill for the building up by a few million dollars. Additionally, the arena opened for the city’s RoughRiders hockey team in January 2000 on a temporary floor. At the end of the first season, refrigerant pipes embedded in sand were dug up, retrofitted and placed in a new concrete floor.

Scott Schoenike, the executive director of that company that manages the city’s U.S. Cellular Center, Paramount Theatre and Ice Arena, has reported that connectors in the piping have failed since the retrofit, resulting in flaws now in the hockey arena’s ice.

The first two lease holders, including the original owner of the RoughRiders, since have moved on, with the city left with responsibility to hire its own manager for the building.

 Even so, Schoenike argues that the arena is an ongoing asset — a must community asset for any city trying to broaden its shoulders.

In truth, the arena came to be in a flurry because of us and because of a recurring need for Cedar Rapids and hundreds of other cities to want to be what they are and more. That’s why cities have Chambers of Commerce, isn’t it.

The offer of a new attraction, a hockey team in a new arena, was a community resume-builder that no city Cedar Rapids’ size would have let go by the way.

Schoenike makes a compelling argument when he points to the dozens of adult amateur hockey teams, among others, that use the arena, often playing games deep into winter evenings. Some of those teams are comprised of professional employees of the city’s major employers, employees who have been recruited to work in the city from places where playing hockey as kids is as common as ice freezing early and hard on outdoor ponds in winter. The adult amateurs have their kids playing at the arena now, too.

Fixing the floor is being paid from revenue derived from the local tax on hotel and motel stays, Schoenike notes.




  1. The bottom line is the costs should be paid by those who use the arena, NOT THE TAXPAYERS.

  2. Amazing how it takes someone who benefits directly from this asset (to) carry such a force of reason as to why we needed this “asset” in the first place.
    I also think we only have to look back on the professional basketball fiasco in Cedar Rapids along with professional football to see not every rube that comes to town offering us such an “exciting” deal should make us rise to the offer by dumping millions of dollars into the venture. Now that we have, it is obvious we have to live with it, but don’t try and make it sound like it was a swell deal. The same goes for the millions dumped across the street in the baseball park.

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