Bay County Could Be Problematic For The Ice Hawks

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Bay County could be problematic for the Ice Hawks


No one is deciding today to take away your ice, a packed room was told this afternoon.

About 75 ice users — some figure skaters but mostly hockey players and coaches — turned out to protest a proposal to turn one sheet of ice over year-round to turf sports. Even after being told early on that a brief conversation with the Bay County Hockey Association had led to a commitment to meet with the user groups, a steady parade of people continued to the microphone since for more than an hour to voice their support for ice activities at the arena.

Committee Chairman Ernie Krygier pointed out that hockey membership had fallen from a high of 400 to the current 210. "It’s hard to justify keeping two ices going."

Nonetheless, the item was removed from the agenda for referral back to County Executive Thomas Hickner and Assistant County Executive Michael Gray, who are to meet with ice users before the matter comes for a decision.

Art Dore Jr., owner of the Tri-City Icehawks junior hockey team, showed up with a few players and the team mascot, who had to sit in the balcony because there was no room downstairs.

"You got to look at the big picture here also," he said, noting that his team has 12 teams come from around nation to play them.

"There’s also money being spent in the communities," he said. "Not only is there money being spent at the rink, but you’re also helping subsidize area businesses."

Junior hockey teams can have a major financial impact on their community. Hotel rooms, meals, flights and other significant dollars are brought into the community through the team. Tax revenues are generated for the area through those purchases as well as the financial impact directly experienced through local business receipts.

With an application pending to join a new league, the Ice Hawks have every reason to be concerned.

Kent Holsing, Bay County Hockey Association scheduler, addressed the difficulties the program would face if cut to one sheet of ice, including greatly reducing the flexibility to host teams from other associations who call seeking games.

Others spoke passionately about the impact hockey and figure skating had on their children. A number of the arena’s regular faces were in the audience.

"If by chance you get the Wolves and the Thunder (high school teams) there on one night, the place is packed," said Mike Schweinsberg, a longtime player and referee. "They’ll be practicing at 5 in the morning, not gonna be fun. And they’re gonna be saying, why can’t these soccer guys do the same thing?"

Gray said the county plans to meet May 17 with the BCHA and also will schedule a meeting with the Bay Area Soccer Association.

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