Thursday, December 26, 2013

Semi-Counterpoint: KC Area Ice Rinks Moving Outdoors

While I agree with Puckchaser's assessment on the lack of outdoor ice skating options in Kansas City, I would like to provide a brief counterpoint.  Yes, the Kansas City area still struggles to open outdoor rinks or lakes/ponds for hockey, and yes, the city of Kansas City hardly contributes any money or facilities towards growing ice recreation besides Line Creek (even though KC is not specifically listed in Puckchaser's post).  But, I would argue that the area is moving in the right direction to making outdoor ice skating and ice hockey a more viable option around town.

It is true that the city and suburbs have not gone out of their way to promote hockey in the area – specifically youth hockey.  Yes, we had the NCAA IceBreaker tourney in 2012, and yes, all of those NHL preseason games (but no NCAA Frozen Fours on the horizon), but the success of those sports is contingent on building a youth base that will want to go watch it while having some investment in the game – it's safe to say that most adults are not just going to pick up hockey or buy tickets to these events just because.  This isn't a Garth Brooks concert, this is serious stuff.

But while Kansas City is no where close to hockey-loving areas like Minneapolis in outdoor ice hockey breadth, a few synthetic and non-synthetic ice outdoor rinks have popped up over the past few years around town.  These outdoor rinks are not too big, and as far as I know only KC Ice Center and Burlington Creek's outdoor rinks offer hockey/pond hockey/broomball.  It is important to remember, though, just getting kids – and active adults – on the ice is a giant first step.  Outdoor ice skating in this part of the country – read: Kansas City – is a novelty.  The Crown Center Ice Terrace for years was basically the only, and best, game in town solely because of OMG OUTDOOR ICE SKATING HOW NEW AND DIFFERENT.  People or families go to that and talk about it forever.  Years ago my family vacationed in Colorado during December and went over to the giant outdoor rink/lake in Keystone.  That was so awesome I have tried to replicate that experience ever since.  Same with folks who attend the Ice Terrace.

We hockey people in Kansas City always talk about wanting NCAA games at Sprint Center and bemoan the City and AEG lying to us about getting an NHL team all in the same breath that we claim to need more youth hockey in the area before any of those big events would actually have a chance at being successful at the gate.  So, before we go ahead and put hockey in these small neighborhood rinks, let's think about building on the novelty first.  People who go skating and cut their teeth (not literally) on a small rink three blocks from their house may want to graduate to one of the indoor facilities around town and actually invest time and money in learning to skate, or play hockey, or figure skate, or curl(ing), or whatever.  But, let's be happy that people in the area are getting an affordable opportunity to skate close to home first before we start hockey tournaments on Longview or Loose Park lakes.

It's a slow, patient build to sell hockey and ice-related sports in this city.  The towns won't sink money into a large outdoor rink or frozen lake maintenance if there is no economic benefit to them.  Plus, the lowest average monthly high in Kansas City is 39°F during the month of January.  For our celcius-loving Canadian friends, that's seven degrees above freezing, so maybe the lakes around town aren't as viable of an option as hoped (in comparison, Minneapolis is 24°F on average in January).  But, I agree with Puckchaser.  More can be done during to winter to ensure frozen ponds are safe for recreational purposes.  Of course, local Parks and Rec departments will have to be creative to reap any monetary benefits from opening a pond for public access (no skate rental, no admission, no hot chocolate, no events or parties, etc.), but, ya know, tax dollars etc etc...

It is encouraging to be frustrated by the lack of outdoor venues in KC, because that means a demand exists for more outdoor opportunities and, in general, more ice rinks.  If you want more ice rinks, let your voice be heard; it's the only way to let local municipalities know what you want from your tax dollars.  But let's take this first step, along with our successful minor league hockey team, and keep building from there.


Crown Center Ice Terrace
Crown Center, Downtown

You can see the Ice Terrace in action on that terrible KCTV5 "Seasons Greetings" commercial (I can't find a link to the video – hopefully it has been deleted and the people responsible imprisoned – but basically the news people all skate around laughing and loving each other to sappy-ass music).  Oh man, that's the stuff cheesy corn is made of…back in the day I had a professor in college that used to talk about terrible marketing decisions – specifically offensive ads, bad ideas for human interest news stories, etc. – and particularly about the meeting that led to that ad or news piece taking place.  He would ask, "Why did no one stand up in the meeting and say, 'this is a terrible idea.  Let's not do this'"?  Not that this commercial is necessarily offensive (although the 'LOL the black guy can't skate' trope is used), or unrealistically characterizes humans and human interaction – particularly as ultra-caring and uber-affable – (though it does), that's what should have happened in the meeting when they decided to make the commercial.

You should go to Crown Center Ice Terrace anyway, though.  It's cool, and those dorks probably won't be there.

KC Ice Center Pavilion 
Shawnee, KS

Read Puckchaser's write-up for a good look at the rink, and some great photos.  Here is a photo gallery, too.

The Rink at Burlington Creek
In the Northland, just east of Parkville, MO

Slowly growing small ice rink.  The brain child of NHL21/KCICE.  In a growing commercial and residential district.

The Ice at Park Place
Leawood, KS

Small rink in a busy area.  Similar area to Burlington Creek, with commercial and residential customers.

Linden Square Ice Rink
Aerial photo – rink in bottom left, new apartments will be in the middle of photo
Gladstone, MO

Small community rink that opened last year.  In a growing area near Gladstone City Hall.  Linden Square apartment development and new businesses nearby.

* * *

I am only aware of these rinks.  Please let me know if I have left one off of the list.

No comments:

Post a Comment