The Chesterfield City Council received a briefing on the proposed ice rink facility in Chesterfield Valley after hearing from Show-Me Institute representative Graham Renz, who questioned the project.
Although no poll was taken of those in the audience, the enthusiastic applause after the presentation by Mark Kraus, president of the Chesterfield Hockey Association, contrasted with the critical questions from councilmembers about issues Renz raised in his remarks.
Noting early in his comments that he is not a Chesterfield resident, Renz questioned the need for the facility by citing a study describing the St. Louis area as a buyer’s market when it came to securing ice time at a rink. He also asked if it was appropriate for shoppers in the valley to pay a higher sales tax benefiting the proposed private operation.
Renz was referring to a proposal to extend a transportation development district [TDD] tax authorized by voters a number of years ago to pay for various road and related infrastructure improvements in the valley. The 3/8-cent tax is added to the sales tax paid by those patronizing businesses in the valley.
Backers of the ice rink operation have proposed asking voters living in subdivisions adjoining the valley to approve extending the tax to pay for an estimated $7 million in road, parking and other infrastructure costs associated with the new facility.
After Renz’s comments, Councilmember Barry Flachsbart [Ward 1] bluntly asked him, “Why are you here opposing this project?” Renz replied he was not opposing it, but merely posing questions.
Referring to the study Renz cited, Councilmember Randy Logan [Ward 3] asked what constituted a buyer’s market and noted the study likely was done before the impact of the Hardee’s Iceplex closing could be assessed.
The Iceplex is scheduled to close this spring to make way for a Topgolf driving range and entertainment facility.
Kraus presented details about the two-sheet ice rink planned on a site between the Comfort Inn and Interstate 64, west of Spirit of St. Louis Boulevard, and the impact of the Iceplex’s closing.
Founded in 1995, the association has used the Iceplex as its base to serve thousands of area youth, aged 4 to 18, he said, noting the hockey clubs, leagues and others using its rinks will be forced to go elsewhere when it closes.
In addition, Iceplex activities draw about 750,000 visitors yearly to the Chesterfield area, a huge economic boost for businesses in the valley and nearby areas, Kraus noted.
The new facility has been designed as a multi-use operation, serving not only hockey enthusiasts but recreational and figure skaters, those interested in other ice-related sports and activities, as well as those needing a venue for meetings, shows and other community events.
Plans call for the $22-$23 million operation to be paid for with $8 million in contributions, $7-8 million of debt financing and $7 million from the proposed TDD tax extension, Kraus continued. The project is not seeking any financial assistance from the city, he emphasized.
Logan asked what revenue the city will gain from utility and sales taxes generated by the proposed facility. Mike Geisel, city administrator, said that revenue stream is not currently known but a review of the operation’s business plan should enable city officials to estimate what the amount will be.
Councilmember Guy Tilman [Ward 2] said he believes the council wants to do what it can, aside from contributing financially, to help move the project along and minimize the time Chesterfield is without ice rink facilities. Tilman recommended at an earlier meeting that the ice rink proponents be asked to present their plans to the council.