Wesley Chapel ice rink likely involved in Tampa World Juniors bid

Rending of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Rending of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Update (9/21/15):

Tampa’s bid for the 2018 World Juniors has been eliminated from contention, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

When you look at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh and HarborCenter in Buffalo, it’s apparent how nice those facilities are, and that they are open. I’m not familiar with any similar type of new, state-of-the-art complexes in St. Louis that would be comparable that could serve as an auxiliary site away from the main arena.

Original:

It appears that the under construction mega iceplex in Wesley Chapel is a key component to Tampa’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships bid.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday that Tampa, with the Lightning’s Amalie Arena as host rink, is bidding for the 2018 World Juniors.

The World Juniors actually go from December into January because of the preliminary rounds. So, the 2015 World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal went from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

Back in May, Gordie Zimmermann, owner of the newly named Florida Hospital Center Ice, hinted that they’re in the running for a big national event coming in 2017 in the context of tournaments, according to the Tampa Tribune:

“We’re looking at some big tournaments that have been wanting to come to Tampa,” Zimmermann said. “They’ve never come here because there wasn’t an operation big enough to accommodate them. We’ve been approached by several groups that have never come to Florida, and we’re bidding for some national events in 2017.”

The only major hockey events that can rotate sites are the Winter Olympics (ha! In Florida?), NCAA Frozen Four (already held in 2012 and returning in 2016), the IIHF World Hockey Championships (scheduled for Paris and Cologne that year), the reborn NHL’s World Cup of Hockey (the first will be in Toronto in 2016—unlikely Tampa would be selected so soon. ) and the IIHF World Junior Championships.

You can see how signs point to the World Juniors. A practice rink is just as important to these major bids that field so many teams and you’d think the Brandon rink and Amalie Arena would serve as practice sheets when/if needed.

What certainly helps is the Wesley Chapel rink has the only Olympic sheet in Tampa Bay and a bonus—laundry facilities.

Capitalizing on revenue

Ice rinks tend to struggle out of the gate bringing in revenue from tournaments and non-traditional means, but the Wesley Chapel rink is showing it knows what it’s doing with it’s savings account.

The World Juniors is one example. The naming rights, announced in May, are another.

That one has me wondering if there is something larger coming other than World Juniors, which would certainly give the rink’s sponsor brand recognition.

However, having a community ice rink that doesn’t serve as a NHL or major college program practice rink that happens to have naming rights is peculiar.

For now, that’s the case with Florida Hospital Center Ice—an awkward name that works in a weird name.

The rink, 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd., Wesley Chapel, Fla.,been called the Wesley Chapel Ice Center, via its official URL and the Cypress Creek Ice and Sports Complex.

There’s not a Florida Hospital Center by official names, and that would help the name. So here, they kind of became it.

You know that the rink will be hosting Olympic skaters, curling clubs, tournaments, and is expected to be the home rink for the USF Ice Bulls. The owner, Zimmermann, is the former GM of the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, which is the back-up practice rink for the Lightning. You’d have to imagine he will do all he can to lure that business to his rink, which despite being further away for some of the players, it will likely have better facilities, better scheduling and will allow the public to watch more of their practices. It would be a lot better for Development and Training camps, too.

When Zimmermann spoke to the Tampa Tribune in May, he said that the naming rights came along thanks to interest in national hockey programs needing homes:

“Florida Hospital Center Ice has attracted the attention of several national programs who are looking to make a home here along with local and statewide programs from a variety of sports,” Zimmermann said.

Both men’s and women’s select teams have found themselves homes in various parts of the country—outside of the National Team Development Program that’s well established in Ann Arbor, Mich. I don’t know enough about these programs to gather why they’d look somewhere else and so far south.

I could see where this would be a longshot because of competition. The Rinks at Harborcenter in Buffalo have opened and of course there’s the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx. This mammoth five-acre building is a former armory that will see nine rinks in what could be probably the best looking community ice complex in the world.

That Mark Messier-led project won’t be an immediate threat as construction isn’t supposed to start until sometime in 2016 or after. So, maybe it’s done by 2020.

One last note on the name change

The name change officially happened between March and May, but lost in reporting of the name is that the ice rink opened itself up in February to the neighborhood for the locals to name it:

Because this will be a community based facility, ZMitch and Florida Hospital have announced a community Naming Contest.  Now through March 10, 2015, community members can submit potential names for the facility at http://www.WesleyChapelIceCenter.com.

Shouldn’t we have all seen this coming because the press release was posted on Florida Hospital’s website?

Good for the rink for bringing in this revenue. The public relations roll-out of the name and going back on an advertised naming contest will irk some people but only those who really get their hockey jocks in a bundle.

All that aside, the new renderings released by the ice rink has me itching to fly down and play:

Rending of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Rending of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Rending of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Rending of Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

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