Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Spokane Valley City Council hears pitch for new ice rink to boost tourism

Spokane Valley City Hall is seen on May 11.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Valley City Hall is seen on May 11. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The city of Spokane Valley is in the early stages of exploring whether there is enough demand in the area to support a new indoor ice rink. A consultant reported to the City Council on Tuesday that a building with two sheets of ice should be profitable.

The ice rink is being considered as part of the city’s examination of its tourism strategy and how to attract more visitors to the city. The city is working with Spokane County to create a Plantes Ferry Sports Complex Comprehensive Master Plan and has partnered with Spokane Sports to examine the possibility of an ice rink.

Dan Morton, of Sports Facilities Company LLC, presented preliminary data Tuesday showing that there is sufficient demand to support a two-sheet rink. “We don’t believe the market is demanding or can support three sheets,” he said.

Sports Facilities Company LLC operates about 40 facilities across the country and performs hundreds of feasibility studies each year. The company prepared the feasibility study for The Podium, the indoor sports facility that recently opened in downtown Spokane.

“We focus on facilities that are impacting the overall health of communities and our clients,” Morton said.

Sports tourism funding took a big hit in 2020, but Morton said it rebounded by 90% in 2021. “We are beating our pre-COVID forecasts,” he said. “We’re seeing that on the industry level as well.”

Morton said he projects that a two-sheet facility, which would include flex space, would be slightly larger than 100,000 square feet and need about 7.5 acres to accommodate the facility and parking. He anticipates that revenue would start at $1.4 million a year and hit $2 million per year by the fifth year of operation.

Projections show that the facility would begin earning a small profit in its third year, Morton said.

“Essentially, we expect the facility to take some time to get to break even,” he said.

The facility would also have a positive financial impact on the community, Morton said. Projections for a two-sheet rink estimate the creation of 10,000 new hotel room nights each year and $5.5 million in annual economic spending at local businesses such as restaurants.

City Manager John Hohman said that several locations are under consideration for a possible ice rink, including Plantes Ferry Park. It would be a separate facility, not integrated into an existing city facility.

“This is truly a concept that would be a standalone,” Hohman said. “There are a number of different places in the city where it could be located. Even the mall has come up as a potential location.”

The City Council seemed receptive to the idea, but lawmakers asked how much an ice rink would cost to build. Morton said similar facilities in other areas have cost between $45 million and $55 million. It usually takes two to three years for projects to be completed, depending on the availability of funding.

Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said that while the price tag seems daunting, she believes an indoor ice rink is needed. “The majority of emails about sports I’ve gotten in the last two years are about ice,” she said. “It’s a huge need. I know there are tons of people who can come together to make this happen.”

Morton said the goal would be to collaborate with existing facilities, not compete with them. Eastern Washington University operates an ice rink between September and March, and there’s an ice rink in Post Falls. The Eagles Ice Arena, located in north Spokane, was purchased by three skating groups several years ago.

“It’s to work with existing stakeholders, fill the gaps,” Morton said. “This facility has the ability to fill a lot of needs, check a lot of boxes.”

Dave Nieuwenhuis, president of the Inland Empire Amateur Hockey Association, said ice time is hard to come by. His teams typically practice at EWU’s rink, spending $270 per hour to rent the ice. They also sometimes use the rink in Post Falls, but rarely use Eagles Ice Arena.

“It’s actually a privately owned rink now,” he said. “For the most part, they won’t rent to us.”

He’s encouraged to learn that there is discussion about building a new indoor rink, but is worried about the price. “Of course I’d love to see that,” he said. “It also has to be affordable ice.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.