Wesley Chapel ice rink hoping for 2016 opening, could have company

Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex

The Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex is expected to open fall 2015 at S.R. 56 and Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel. Rendering provided

Update: The Cypress Creek Ice & Sports Complex, 3173 Cypress Creek Blvd., Wesley Chapel, wants to open in August 2016. was supposed to have broken ground in October 2014, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

I checked Pasco County building permits website on Jan. 11 and nothing has been issued for that site but the Tampa Tribune reports that they have been issued and groundbreaking is to take place in January 2015.

Original: Come August, ground is expected to be broken on the largest ice rink complex in Florida, and it’s coming to Tampa Bay.

The Cypress Creek Ice & Sports Complex could open as soon as fall 2015, the Tampa Tribune reported, and will be located on State Road 56 and Interstate 75. The rink will have the capability to run four sheets, including one Olympic, two mini practice rinks and will look to host the USF Bulls, visiting NHL teams and some mega tournaments.

The fourth rink will be multipurpose so it can be converted for indoor soccer/lacrosse, a basketball court, event space or you know, ice.

The guy behind the rink is Gordie Zimmermann, who formed a company called Z Mitch. It happens to be that the Canadian transplant is high school buddies with Lightning vice president and Stanley Cup captain Dave Andreychuck. Sounds like a good deal for the Lightning to try this place out.

The project will cost $16 million to $20 million, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported, and was not originally planned for Pasco County:

Z Mitch originally planned to build its ice facility in South Tampa or the airport area, but a property search, led by Deb Tamargo of R.O.I. Commercial Property Brokerage, didn’t pan out. “We put in a number of offers and finished second a few times, but we did motivate some buyers to exercise first right of refusal,” she quipped.
The change in focus to Pasco allowed the project’s footprint to double in size from its originally planned two rinks and six acres.

Oddly enough, a practice rink called Xtra Ice opened near the airport instead, offering private instruction and four-on-four hockey.

Kudos to Channel 10 for posting all the design slides, allowing me to have a few comments on the design:

  • Not crazy about the purple and green–you’re in Tampa Bay Lightning country not Orlando Solar Bears.
  • The exterior looks like a ’70s or ’80s concrete fortress. It’s like I’m staring at a practice rink version of Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ont. Ice rinks need more windows and glass to show the action and let some natural light in to make it feel authentic.
  • Savvy move to have a neighboring hotel to make it easy on teams looking for hotel rooms near the rink.
  • Good on them to use the Olympic rink for curling and short-track speed skating.
  • It appears that there will be a second floor that will be a viewing area, a restaurant, birthday party rooms and more to look over the main rink.
  • It’s smart to have the fourth rink being able to convert for other uses. Really, this rink probably will have three sheets going at a time. I predict the fourth will be used for a variety of uses that are not hockey more often than not. It would be wise to use that surface for roller hockey in the summer like the incredi-busy Ice Gardens in Laurel, Md.
  • I like that there is a laundry facility on site–good for both the physical therapy (bonus) and a host club.
  • It’s bizarre that there are basketball courts here. More crossover with lacrosse than basketball. Kind of an odd addition.
  • Can’t wait to find out who will be running the pro shop.

What’s kind of funny is that Pat DeLorenzo, a part-time NHL official who lives in Clearwater, has or maybe had at this point, plans for a twin rink plus build a banquet and event space nearby at State Road 54 near The Grove, Suncoast News reported.

DeLorenzo said in that report that he thinks Zimmermann’s rink is too big and that his would be a community rink, and despite DeLorenzo’s claim, there might be room for both. Just not in Wesley Chapel as they two would be five miles apart, according to the Tampa Bay Times:

DeLorenzo expects to finalize the sale on the 13-acre site in July. He doubts four rinks would succeed and noted that his plan for two NHL-sized rinks corresponds to area demographics.
“One of the things I believe is this area does not have anywhere near the ability to have four rinks all working at the same time,” he said.
DeLorenzo said the property’s owner, Anaheim, Calif.,-based Specialty Restaurants Corp., would provide some financing. The rest would come from outside investors and DeLorenzo’s development company, Sportsplex of America LLC.
He’s also considering adding a conference center for $4 million.
“I’m going on the idea that Gordie Zimmermann is not there and I’m doing this as if I’m alone,” DeLorenzo said.

Considering that Cyprees Creek will only have three full sheets of ice, maybe it DeLorenzo’s rink will work out, too, but only if one of his pads can be converted for multi-use. They ought to not try to put each other out of business. But still, five miles away is too close for comfort in Pasco.

I will say that during season when the Canadian snowbirds flock down here, the area ice rinks get incredibly busy and full of players looking for a team. So from November to Easter, they’ll have a good crowd.

Rink management penalty box

I’ve taken a lap around this rink debate before. When I lived in Hagerstown, Md., our ice rink opened with a single sheet (still does) in August 1997. Come December of that same year, the Dorris I. Billow Ice Arena opened in Zullinger, Pa., no more than 11 miles north.

That Pennsylvania rink felt like it was off the beaten path even though it was right off Interstate 81. Today, the corridor is much more grown up. While the second rink came on board, it was late to the game despite being far superior.

The Hagerstown rink had management issues from the start with four people quitting the board weeks after its opening. The guy, who had worked with my sister at First Data later, was found to have falsified his qualifications and wasn’t very respectful toward women. The rink managed to survive all these years.

The Pennsylvania rink was a dream of a woman who bequeathed money at her death to build an ice rink. The community built an Olympic sheet instead of the NHL sheet in Hagerstown. They had ceiling heaters pointed toward the bleachers, had a higher ceiling, better lobby area, and had far better locker rooms. Having showers easily one-upped the Hagerstown rink, which still lacks showers today.

But the ceiling had condensation issues and would often drip water onto the ice causing holes and cones to be put up–even during games. The management wasn’t explosive, but they had issues, mainly financial. Some of it was from the Hagerstown and Zullinger ice rinks raging war against each other. It was too bad because it seemed that yes, there was enough ice to go around during those early days.

The Hagerstown rink attracted people who couldn’t get to Cumberland and couldn’t afford Frederick and drew people from Winchester, Va., and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. The Zullinger rink attracted kids from Adams County and those who would travel to York, Harrisburg and Mechanicsville, plus draw kids from the western edge. Chambersburg was bit of a battleground area and an overlap, but there were always enough people.

Nobody saw that and the Zullinger rink, the better rink, closed two years later and was sold at a bankruptcy sale leaving a competitive team looking for a home. Today the rink is an indoor tennis club. And the Hagerstown rink would like to expand to add a second sheet of ice. Guess two rinks could have survived.

Back to Tampa Bay

Now, I don’t believe that six sheets of ice in a five-mile radius in suburban Tampa will work. It’s a larger metropolitan area, yes, and the Wesley Chapel rink(s) will take some from the existing pool of players that play at the current rinks, but there are players to be had and introduce from Zephyrhills, Brooksville, Spring Hill and Dade City.

It also helps that the Brandon has a good bit of customer service complaints. If anything that should be the rink worried if one or two Wesley Chapel rinks are successful.

Zimmermann told reporters (which I could have been present today) that he wants to bring in large tournaments that area rinks can’t handle. That’s smart because it’s what supports the income to run a successful rink along with camps. He also wants to do a hockey academy and host the USF Bulls and take some business away from the Brandon Ice Sports Forum to have visiting NHL teams practice there. Hell, it would be better if the Lightning could practice there.

When Zimmermann targets tournaments, academies, colleges and the like, he’ll have a full schedule just for hockey right there. That’s before youth leagues, adult leagues, public skating, figure skating and hell, he might as well do curling and speed skating to round it out.

Yet, I’ve noticed that if the area rinks were better schedule makers and better local marketers maybe we wouldn’t need more rinks.

It’s easier to get out-of-state business when you’re an ice rink in Florida. Pitch goes like this: beer, hockey, beach, beer, warm, hockey, beer.

It’s more difficult to get your local clubs, organizations all working together to create programming and marketing to pull in new people or people who play or figure skate who might not know you exist.

The scheduling is more than quirky here. In Ellenton, there seems to be an aversion to go past 11 p.m., or even 10 p.m., and instead favor crack-of-dawn ice times. Other rinks are like that, too. Pick-ups are scheduled at odd times or bad times at other rinks, or sometimes not at all while leagues are active.

All of the rinks save for Brandon need some TLC on aesthetics and maintenance. In Clearwater, the new owner has added a better entrance, expanded lobby, secured weight room and better showers. However, the ice can be suspect more often than not with rumble strips in the middle, chipped or low ice in two corners. Getting to the locker rooms are awkward as two players with bags have no room to pass by each other. The benches are laid out weird, too, with one being very slanted and crooked. And the venting needs to be better, still. This place once had carbon monoxide poisoning. I’ve smelled Zam fumes too many times there, even this past month. Oh, and the ceilings are ultra low.

Ellenton needs a new paint job inside and out, new flooring, fixed showers and locker room toilet. Two club team locker rooms were improved but that’s about it.

In Oldsmar, the refrigeration system needs repaired on the south rink. It gets insanely low on that sheet and some nights I don’t know how we were allowed to play. The place just looks old and beat up all the way around. Most nights you pray the Zamboni makes it around the rink. I’ve witnessed a Zam breakdown at least three times there with one delaying the game for hours, damaging the ice.

Near the airport, there’s a mini-sheet called Xtra Ice that has room for four-on-four, and they probably have the best ice next to Brandon. The quality of the facility, yet small, is top-notch. They need to get their word out more that they are there to book more ice time. Xtra has been open for more than a year and there are so many people I run into who don’t know they are open.

I just can’t wait for this new rink complex to open if I still live in Florida. I really would find a way to move closer to it, too. There’s a long road ahead to success, but Cypress Creek has the goods. Now it’s up to them to manage the goods.

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One thought on “Wesley Chapel ice rink hoping for 2016 opening, could have company

  1. Pingback: Ice time is always a challenge no matter where you are | hockeynutsandbolts

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