Kansas City ice rink on life support

Back in 1994, there was basically one ice facility in Kansas City — King Louie at 88th and Metcalf. It was an odd ice facility in the basement of a bowling alley.

It had a swiss chalet look to it. On one side the ceiling was about 9 feet from the ice surface, on the other it was about 20 feet high, with windows that overlooked the rink…from the bowling alley’s game room. The ice wasn’t flat. It was a bit higher in one corner. If you iced the puck just right, it wouldn’t make it to the red line because it had to travel up hill.

It had a in-house youth league, an in-house men’s league and a high school travel team that played in the Iowa High School league. It served it’s purpose, but AMF decided to get out of the ice rink business.

Now, 16 years later, the Kansas City area has five indoor sheets of ice. A two-sheet rink in Overland Park, Ice Midwest (formerly known as Pepsi Ice Midwest), that promotes itself as the “premier ice facility in the tri-state area”, is closed indefinitely. The facility may be closed temporarily. Or, it could become the new “premier futsal facility in the tri-state area”.

At this point, who knows?

The local media reports say it is a mechanical failure.
Mechanical Failure Puts Chill On Ice At OP Rink
Malfunction Shuts Down Popular Ice Rink
Factually correct, I guess, but sorely lacking any interviews with kids and parents who are affected by the closing. It’s called “humanizing” a story and it’s a basic tenant of television journalism that’s pounded into your head at every J-School worth the tuition. It also takes more work. By interviewing parents, some of the back story, that this facility may close as an ice facility for good, may have come to light.

Rumor is that the city of Overland Park wants to buy the facility and turn it into a place for kids to play futsal. Who knows now that OP has a new City Manager.

I have no idea what futsal is. I like soccer. Indoor soccer…not so much. And, I don’t know much about futsal facilities. I know this. There have been indoor soccer facilities in Lenexa and the Grandview triangle area and Blue Springs for years and I don’t recall any of them being particularly successful and I think they’ve changed hands about as often as the hockey rinks.

The local Johnson County rinks — Ice Sports KC in Shawnee and Ice Midwest in OP — have had an adversarial relationship for years. Unfortunately, this has adversely affected both facilities when, really, it’s never been necessary.

The part that seems to be lost on the owners and operators of local rinks is a successful marketing concept used by Kansas City’s most successful businesses. GROW THE CATEGORY.

The different owners and operators over the years of Ice Sports and Ice Midwest have spent so much time trying to pilfer potential hockey players and ice skaters from each other that the fact that they just need MORE people ice skating was completely forgotten.

Sure, Hallmark and Sprint want a higher market share. But, each business works very hard to grow the category in which they compete. Hallmark wants more people to buy greeting cards, gift wrap and holiday decorations. Sprint wants more people to upgrade their mobile phone and each user to raise their ARPU (average rate per user) regardless of whether it is with them or one of their competitors. Then, when the category grows, Hallmark and Sprint are confident that with successful marketing programs and relationships with their customers, they can grow their market share.

10% of $100 is $10, growing your market share by 1% in a stagnant category increases that amount by 10% to $11.
11% of $150 is $16.5, growing your market share by 1% in a GROWING category increases that amount by 150% to $16.5. Really simple concept.

I leave out the Independence rink because they are part of the Independence Events Center and on a bit of an island East of the State Line.

Line Creek is the same way — alone North of the river. Also, it is a publicly-owned facility. Still, I’ve never heard stories about petty bickering between Line Creek or Independence and the Johnson County rinks.

The adversarial relationship has ebbed and flowed over the years. Some of it was ego-driven by former rink managers. Some of it was driven by overzealous hockey parents. Now, it seems it has all come to roost. Despite the media reports, rumors are that the owners of Ice Midwest aren’t sure if they want it to be an ice facility. They want to focus on the fitness part of the facility (despite being so close to Prairie Life, Lifetime Fitness and 24Hour fitness). I wonder how many of their “fitness” customers are there because their kids skate there? By killing the “ice” part of it, they may be killing their customer leads….don’t know. Other rumors are that Ice Midwest will be sold to a different private owner and the rinks MAY actually start working together.

At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows.

Why would a guy who writes about whether Kansas City will ever see an NHL team play in Sprint Center (or any other anchor tenant for that matter) write about rumors involving a local ice rink?

Well, I play hockey. I like to watch local high school hockey. When my kid is grown and out of the house, I may be ready to hang up my skates and do some coaching. I want to see hockey grow in Kansas City and, over the 16 years that I have lived in this wonderful place, it has. Unfortunately, for it to continue to successfully grow, kids (and adults who love hockey for that matter) need a place to play. At this point, we don’t know if that will be on five sheets of indoor ice or three.

…I care about hockey in Kansas City, I just don’t think an NHL team will ever come here….

If AEG really cared about the Kansas City community, they’d put down the ice at Kemper Arena from January 17 to February 3, while it is unused, and rent the ice to local youth and adult hockey teams…at least it would be used for something.

Of course, if this isn’t REALLY a mechanical failure and just an ego-driven fight for $$ or power between the owners of Ice Midwest and someone else, then I guess there’s no reason for anyone to help.

Adults fight, kids lose.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to the hockey playing (and figure skating) community in Kansas City in the coming weeks.

Anyone with more info can e-mail me at blogger@puckchaser.com.

About blogger

Just a guy in KC who loves hockey. KC is a hockey town. We just don't know it, yet.
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8 Responses to Kansas City ice rink on life support

  1. Tommy says:

    Growing up in Olathe, I always drove past that rink and wondered what it would be like to ice skate. Never tried to ice skate until New Year’s Day, when the University of Maine hockey team held “Skate with the Bears” for one hour at an ice-skating facility outside Portland, Maine, close to where I live these days.

    The difference between KC and Maine is night and day when it comes to hockey.

    For starters, I bought my used skates for $30 at a Play It Again Sports location devoted almost entirely to ice hockey, field hockey and lacrosse. Skates from wall to wall, sweaters hanging in the rafters and on all walls, Crosby and Ovechkin posters, etc. Which makes sense because there are so many schools here that have hockey, and they all play at different communities. Ice time is at a premium with the high schools, junior hockey teams, mites, etc. Cities freeze ponds so casual skaters can enjoy a sunny (though still cold) day outside.

    I love hockey, and I would love to see the NHL return to KC, though not at the expense of my Penguins as what nearly happened years ago (I’m a Pittsburgh transplant who moved to KC but never gave up the teams I grew up with). Not sure such a basketball-crazy hotbed will ever warm up enough to cultivate KC into a hockey town. I hope I’m wrong, though, and I’ll continue to wear my Scouts gear (one T-shirt, one baseball cap, one stocking cap) until then.

    Been reading this blog for some time now. Keep up the good work.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Deep throat says… three parties have confirmed that Pepsi will in all likelihood be a futsal (sp?) facility. Heard this on Sunday evening (Jan 16th).

  3. Skater Mom says:

    It’s such a shame that Overland Park can’t get it together and own an Ice Facility. Ice is not only used for hockey, it’s also used for figure skating. Both of my children skate, one at the competitive level , is already very expensive enough. When we moved here it was for a) the schools and b) the rink! Now we have to travel all over trying to find (meagre) ice time. Overland Park has put enough money into soccer… let’s give some other sports that people have heard of some attention!

  4. anonymous says:

    Heard a week ago the pump engine failed after 11 years of operation; should have lasted 15 years or more. Cost to replace is $1 million and up. Imagine the additional cash flow requirements to recoup the $1 million cost plus interest of a depreciating asset within 10 years. With pump malfunctioned, ice drained to bare sand, maybe it’s time to replace and repair pipes and surfaces too. The cost is substantial, without adequate return on that investment (spend). Growing up in Twin Cities in Minnesota, all indoor rinks are either city or school district owned. Skating rinks are a public asset. Very unusual to have a private facility like Ice Midwest; too capital intensive over time. This is a predictable result with an aging power plant.

  5. eaton says:

    if they were really thinking they would use a Goethermal kind of power. hate to say it but the price of the pump engine is only going to go up. they should ride out the inflation and keep the rink running !!

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