Plans for a $20 million ice rink complex to be built in Freedom Park have brought together neighbors who are organizing to raise specific questions about the project, examine the law regarding the approvals and incentives and rally to take action to protect their neighborhood, as they see it.
Some residents, such as those who live in Brighton Estates and other nearby neighborhoods, are opposed to the proposal by the owners of minor-league hockey team Indy Fuel. They have contacted city officials, conducted their own meetings, researched state laws, made public records requests for city documents, interviewed managers of similar facilities elsewhere in the U.S. and created a website — www.SaveFreedomPark.com — to document all of that information.
Some of their concerns include increased traffic, safety issues, the appropriateness of using park land for a commercial project and whether the tax break being considered for the project is allowed under state law. Some of the residents against the iceplex development want the city to address specific concerns, such as traffic. Other residents want the development moved elsewhere in the city.
Residents in favor of the project also have been vocal in their support. Children wearing hockey jerseys sat in attendance at a packed Monday evening Greenwood City Council meeting while their parents spoke about how difficult it is to find open ice rinks in the area.
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Minor-league hockey team Indy Fuel owners Jim and Sean Hallett have proposed the Greenwood Iceplex with up to four ice rinks to be built on 6 acres at Freedom Park. They have requested a five-year, $450,000 property tax break, and the city also has offered to lease the land to them for $1 a month for 60 years.
The proposed tax break was introduced at the Monday council meeting and council members are scheduled to vote on it at each of the next three meetings.
Greenwood residents in favor of the project said there is a shortage of ice rinks on the southside, with players often needing to travel north of Indianapolis or south to Columbus for practice. One teenage hockey player told the council that his team has to share a rink for practices, a less than ideal situation in preparing for games.
City officials said the project is a benefit to the community because it brings in a needed amenity at minimal cost or risk to residents and that the increase in property taxes will be a boost to the city and school district. A 2015 study of the city’s recreational amenities by planning consultants indicated that there is a need for an ice rink in Greenwood.
Sean Hallett told city council members that their research shows a large demand for ice rinks on the southside. By his count, there are 6 ice rinks on the northside and just one on the southside.
“There is no magic line in Indianapolis where people stop playing hockey,” Hallett said.
A 2015 study of Greenwood’s recreational amenities by planning consultants Lehman & Lehman showed the city currently is in need of more than one ice rink for skating and hockey and will need more by 2024.
That figure is based on the city’s population and national estimates for how many people in a community are going to take advantage of an amenity, Greenwood Capital Projects Manager Kevin Steinmetz said.
The Greenwood Iceplex will open with two ice rinks and two turf playing fields. The Halletts plan to convert the turf fields to ice as demand grows.
Greenwood resident Jeff Fanter said his son has to be taken to Columbus for hockey practices and having a facility in Greenwood would be a huge benefit to the local hockey community.
He acknowledged that traffic could be a concern, but said that the facility also would become another safe place for residents to take their kids to play.
Having an ice rink complex would provide more opportunities for Greenwood kids, resident Wendy Pottgen said.
Pottgen’s 13-year-old son’s team has difficulty finding places to practices, especially in the summer when they are preparing for out-of-state tournaments, she said.
Her son, Charlie, said that his team, which practices at the Perry Park ice rink, often has to share the rink with another team during practices.
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said he has received an overwhelming amount of emails and message from residents excited about the project.
While traffic will increase, Myers said improvements to Worthsville and Smith Valley roads already are planned. The city soon will fund a study to determine what changes may be needed to be made to the section of Averitt Road in between those two streets.
Traffic has been a concern of several residents, who said getting onto Averitt Road is already difficult, and that’s before the new Greenwood middle school and iceplex open.
The study will take about six months to complete and will give the city an idea of what specific improvements it should make, Myers said. Some of those options could include a roundabout at the Stop 18 and Averitt roads intersection, as well as additional turn lanes to help residents get in and out of their neighborhoods.
Other residents objected to the proposed expansion of Stop 18 Road, which is an entrance into Freedom Park, into the Brighton Estates neighborhood. Extending the road would provide an east to west route connecting Averitt and Honey Creek roads.
Myers said that the road expansion, which isn’t expected to happen anytime soon, will remain in the city’s long term plans, but the city could consider adjusting the route so it doesn’t impact the Brighton Estates neighborhood as much, he said.
One option several residents suggested was for the iceplex to be built near Interstate 65, which would make it more accessible to the out-of-community visitors who are expected.
“I’m not against the iceplex; I’m just against the location,” Heather Garrett said.
But city officials said the land in Freedom Park, which was previously considered for a YMCA, is a perfect location for this type of recreational facility.
Other residents questioned whether the city was taking enough steps to protect itself in case the iceplex fails.
City attorney Krista Taggart said the final contract with the Halletts will include standard provisions to protect the city in case the project doesn’t succeed.
The Greenwood City Council will consider a proposed tax break for the Greenwood Iceplex at the council’s next three meetings. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are conducted at the Greenwood City Building, 300 S. Madison Ave.
April 3: First vote on tax break
April 17: Second vote on tax break
May 1: Public hearing, confirmatory vote on tax break
The Greenwood Parks and Recreation Board will also need to approve the 60-year, $1 per month lease. That issue is set to appear before the board in April or May.
What: The Greenwood Iceplex, a four ice-rink complex that would be the largest in the state and one of the biggest in the Midwest, will cover 115,000 square feet and cost $20 million.
Details: Two ice rinks, two turf fields which are planned to be later converted into ice rinks, a 4,000-square-foot fitness and training facility open to the public, retail space, locker rooms and food service. The ice rinks will be used for hockey, skating, figure skating, speed skating, curling, broomball and other ice sports.
Owned by: Jim and Sean Hallett, owners of minor-league hockey team Indy Fuel