Determining which side Greenwood residents were taking on whether a ice rink complex should be built in Freedom Park wasn’t difficult at a Monday evening city council meeting.
Hockey parents, players and coaches donned team jerseys, while residents against the proposed Greenwood Iceplex sported their own dark green shirts with the phrase “Save Freedom Park” emblazoned in white letters. A half-dozen young hockey players sat on the carpet in front of the first row of seats, while in the back, a man held a cardboard sign detailing his stance against the ice-rink complex.
A divided Greenwood City Council mirrored the audience, as members voted 5-4 to give their first approval to provide a five-year, $450,000 tax break for the project.
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.
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A second consecutive Greenwood City Council meeting was packed with residents as supporters and opponents of the iceplex voiced their opinions and concerns.
Each side was given 10 minutes to address the council at the beginning of the meeting, with emphatic applause following nearly a dozen short speeches. Supporters spoke about the need for more ice rinks on the southside of Indianapolis and the community benefits of organized sports. Opponents contended that a park was not an appropriate place to construct a for-profit, commercial project and that the proposed tax break for it violated state law.
“This is a plus, not a minus,” said Greenwood resident Kim Mosby, who has a grandson who plays hockey.
Mosby, who lives in a neighborhood south of Freedom Park, said bringing in a hockey complex would increase property values and make it more likely for future residents to move to the community.
Giving away park land that the public can use for free and replacing it with a facility they will have to pay to use isn’t appropriate, Greenwood resident Patrick Chambers said.
After about an hour of discussion in front of an audience of more than 100 people — covering topics such as road extensions, the city’s comprehensive plan, alcohol sales and even punctuation marks in state law — the council voted 5-4 in favor of the tax break, the first of three votes the council is required to make before the tax break becomes official.
The council won’t be the final city entity required to weigh in on the iceplex. The terms of the property lease — including whether to permit alcohol sales — will be decided later by the Greenwood Board of Parks and Recreation, which is the owner of the land. That topic was not on the agenda for the board’s April meeting.
City council members Mike Campbell, Ezra Hill, Linda Gibson, Ron Bates and David Hopper voted for the tax break; Chuck Landon, Dave Lekse, Brent Corey and Bruce Armstrong voted against it.
The four who voted against the tax break cited concerns including the legality of the tax break, whether the city was appropriately following its comprehensive plan, whether the iceplex should be built in a different location and if alcohol sales are acceptable in a city park.
The council considered three amendments to the tax break. Members approved ending plans to connect Stop 18 to Freedom Park, a major concern of residents in the nearby Brighton Estates neighborhood. The council also approved placing design requirements on the iceplex similar to those required for buildings near Interstate 65.
However, a request from Landon that the council not allow the Halletts to sell alcohol during the five-year tax break was voted down, which Landon cited as his reason for voting against the project.
The fact that all these amendments were even being debated was indicative of the problems of putting a commercial project in a public park, Lekse said.
Landon said that while he is in favor of putting the iceplex in Freedom Park, he said the city needs to take steps to ensure nearby residents aren’t negatively affected.
He proposed eliminating the planned Stop 18 connection, saying the amount of annual visitors to the iceplex, which the Halletts have estimated to be as many as 800,000, means the city needs to reconsider the roads.
The council shouldn’t be so quick to ignore its comprehensive plans, Corey said, citing documents as far back as the 1980s that show plans for Stop 18 to be extended through the Freedom Park area.
Comprehensive plans are documents required by state law that describe how a city is planned to be developed, including details such as where future roads will go and where specific categories of businesses should be located. While those plans are often used as the basis for development decisions, the council is not required by law to follow it.
Residents opposed to the iceplex cited the comprehensive plan, saying a commercial and tourist-oriented project such as this is better located near I-65.
The city has a dire need for more east-to-west routes for drivers and removing plans for Stop 18 will only make traffic worse in the long run, Corey said.
The council voted 7-2 in favor of an amendment preventing Stop 18 from connecting to Freedom Park and the proposed iceplex location. Hopper and Corey voted against it.
The iceplex will also be required to follow the same design standards as buildings along I-65 in one of the city’s overlay districts. Those requirements include restrictions on the types of materials that can be used in construction and the amount of landscaping that must be done on the property. The council voted 8-1 in favor of those requirements, with Landon voting against them.
Before alcohol is allowed to be sold on the property, the city should set up a waiting period to allow for nearby road improvements to be finished and for the Halletts to get settled into the complex, Landon said.
“I don’t want to throw booze into the mix right now,” he said.
While the city council can’t determine whether an alcohol permit is issued, it can put conditions on tax breaks, and Landon proposed not allowing any alcohol sales for the duration of the five-year tax break.
The council voted 6-3 against the alcohol restriction, with Landon, Lekse and Armstrong voting for the restriction.
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 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 as early as 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