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Hot debate over Pima Co. ice rink plan

Hockey advocates say plenty of demand
Posted at 7:02 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 22:03:54-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — New ice rinks are part of a proposal for a major expansion at Pima County’s Kino Sports Complex. But the idea of the frosty new facilities has touched off some hot debate.

The Kino Sports Complex already has 22 soccer fields, 20 pickleball courts, and 6 baseball fields. Pima County is considering a deal with a Maryland company to add a large field house with multiple basketball and volleyball courts as part of a long term plan to add a variety of entertainment features.

But the idea that’s drawing the most heat is a plan to add ice---an ice plex with perhaps as many as three rinks for ice hockey and other skating.

During this week's Supervisors meeting, Supervisors like Adelita Grijalva remembered rinks that failed financially, like the ice complex on Tucson’s east side that shut down 13 years ago. The building’s a passport factory now.

The ice rink idea got a chilly reception from some people on KGUN9’s Facebook.

Blady said: “Ice rink in the middle of the desert. I’m sure we can use these funds on something that will serve a greater percentage of our community.”

Sonia said: “How about softball fields instead?”

Pima County’s been pumping up facilities at Kino after years of watching Maricopa County attract regional sports events that bring carloads of customers to local businesses. Hockey advocates say they’re tired of trekking to Phoenix to get their kids onto the ice and they say a rink that failed more than ten years ago does not reflect demand now.

Jeremy Bow is President of the Junior Roadrunners youth hockey league affiliated with the Tucson Roadrunners Pro team. He says there’s huge growth in youth hockey.

“More than 325 percent growth over the last five years. We’re one of the largest markets in the country for increased registration forgirls and women for the eight and under age group, which is the all important beginning skaters.” 1:35 runs:15

On Facebook, Lance says: “Absolutely support this. Phoenix has 7 or 8 locations and each has multiple sheets of ice. There is a true demand for this.”

Jonathan says, “There is a large hockey community in Tucson, just because you aren’t aware of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

In their meeting this week County Supervisors approved a one-point-eight million dollar agreement to refine plans for the proposal. District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy voted no. He prefers a purely private sports complex.

Supervisors are due to consider detailed plans in July. If they approve, the new facilities could open in about two years.