Exclusive: Ellenton, Fla., ice rink sold


Ellenton Ice has sold for $6 million to American Ice Rinks Ellenton LLLP, according to a deed filed with the Manatee County Clerk.

The full price is $6,020,000.

American Ice Rinks is the same owner as the Space Coast Iceplex, as originally reported, and business documents show that both rinks are registered to Matthew Smith. The deed also reveals that the seller, Mike Bennett and business partner Marv Kaplan, retain some rights over the electronic billboard they bought and constructed at the rink. That’s a prime billboard on a heavily traveled interstate at an exit shared with the Ellenton Premium Outlets.

Smith and his wife Natalia Smith acquired the Brevard County ice rink in 2014, according to FloridaToday.com.

The Smiths are well versed in ice rinks and competitive ice skating, the website reported:

Before arriving in Brevard, Matt Smith spent 15 years managing and operating an ice rink in San Diego. Both he and his wife have experience as skating coaches and were competitive figure skaters.

Matt Smith was the Junior National Champion of Canada in Figure Skating and spent four years on the Canadian national skating team. He has coached Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, as well as other world-class athletes. His wife, Natalia Smith, set the Guinness World Record for the fastest spin on ice skates.

Because of their clout in the international skating community, the Smiths could boost the profile of the iceplex’s skating programs.

On the figure skating side, this sounds like a perfect fit for the Smiths. Ellenton Ice has regularly been the training home for Olympic skaters. Among those who trained in Ellenton include pairs Nathan Bartholomay and Felicia Zhang in Sochi, Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora in Vancouver, Jeremy Barrett and Caydee Denney in Vancouver (both Florida natives!) plus Canadians Paige Lawrence and Rudy Sweigers along with Brits David King and Stacy Kemp also train at the rink for the Olympics and other competitions.

That’s a program they can directly affect the most. Youth hockey is almost on autopilot between having adult organizations and now the Tampa Bay Lightning being heavily involved in high school leagues and conducting camps. The Bolts are also providing a retired Lightning player to help co-coach each high school team.

Adult hockey? That remains to be seen. I don’t know how they handled it at Space Coast, but the director of adult hockey at Ellenton, Bill Walleshauser, wasn’t immediately rehired, according to his Facebook page.

I don’t know if Smith is bringing his own guy over from Brevard to run the program, or having someone else double duties locally, but it’s a touchy decision for some folks.

The rink has adult programs running on two sheets with six leagues, A through D plus a 30+ league. That’s a lot of people to manage, a lot of refs to schedule and having to deal with suspensions and other beer league drama.

What I’m most interested in is what Smith’s vision is for the vacant sports bar, which has had a revolving door of tenants even from the rink’s very start as the J.P. Igloo. Fun fact: The original restaurant that was supposed to be housed in that space was a R.J. Gators, which went out of business entirely as a chain then was revived in Bradenton.

Also, there’s an indoor lacrosse/soccer space in Ellenton Ice, too, that will have to be managed, along with a gym upstairs. They could use new flooring, maybe finally replacing the old Igloo logo at the entrance.

My pet peeve when I lived down there — cosmetically speaking — was this hockey player statue that was breaking through the side of the building facing Interstate 75. It’s painted in old Mighty Ducks of Anaheim colors because it was the uniform of an old youth or junior team when the rink opened. It really needs to be repainted to reflect the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Anyway, after reading and sharing stories about a slew of rink closures in Pittsburgh and Johnstown, it’s nice to see a rink staying open after being purchased.


Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in Ellenton, Fla., has been sold to the owners of the Space Coast Iceplex in Rockledge, Fla. Price hasn’t been disclosed but not all employees have been rehired.

The ice rink has long been on the market, owned by Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett through his company MJ Squared, and business partner Marv Kaplan.

The asking price on Loopnet, a commercial real estate listings site, last year was $12.5 million. The rink recently went a minor renovation and installed a video billboard to bring in revenue beside Interstate 75 but a space for a restaurant has been vacant for at least three years. It was last occupied by Ellenton Steakhouse.



Three Florida Ice Rinks For Sale

Ice Factory of Central Florida in Kissimmee is for sale. (Courtesy of Loopnet)

Ice Factory of Central Florida in Kissimmee is for sale. (Courtesy of Loopnet)

Ice rinks being put on the market should not be a reflection of popularity, or a perceived lack thereof, but instead of poor managerial decisions or thinning profits. I lead with that because there are three ice rinks for sale in Florida that can cause critics of SunBelt hockey smile with joy. I don’t see that issue here. Commercial property listing website Loopnet shows the following ice rinks for sale in Florida:

Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. (Courtesy of Loopnet)

Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. (Courtesy of Loopnet)

[Update: The Ellenton ice rink has been sold. See my post on the rink’s sale by following this link. I passed the info to the Bradenton Herald to devote more time to fleshing out details, and you can read on its site about the $7 million deal.]

The Ellenton ice rink I know very well and have written about it before. It’s a busy facility, though they could take advantage of late-night weekend hours better. It includes two NHL size sheets of ice, an indoor soccer arena, plenty of locker rooms, a gym and a vacant restaurant space that has everything from chains to local concepts that never succeeded there.

It’s co-owned by the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections (and former State Sen.) Mike Bennett, who also owns the eclectic Linger Lodge in the eastern part of the county. Bennett told me when I worked for the Bradenton Herald that the ice rink is his most profitable business, which to me was always interesting considering the lack of routine maintenance performed there—paint, rebuilding the ice, fixing broken showers and bathroom doors in the lockers, paying for an actual sign. But he did manage to get a giant electronic billboard at the rink to make money off of advertising.

There are Olympic skaters who train there, NHL alums who play here including some in the Hall of Fame and a nice pro-shop. Good people manage the day-to-day operations, and I know they could do more if they were given more resources. It was a tough turnaround anyway because Bennett and co-owner Marv Kaplan saved the rink from being shuttered when it was called the Igloo. They own a parcel across their parking lot to expand with a hotel one day but I don’t see it with this group. They told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2014 that the north rink could be much bigger:

Kaplan said he envisions adding about 6,000 seats to the north hockey rink and bringing in a minor-league hockey team that would play in the East Coast Hockey League.


Especially now with the rink being put up for sale with a $12.5 million asking price. Even I think that price might be too rich. The two tried to unload this in 2008 unsuccessfully. (They’re also pitching to sale the Linger Lodge now to the state in a weird loophole deal.)

North in Kissimmee, this rink built in 1998 is the Ice Factory of Central Florida. always wanted to play in this rink but never had the chance. According to the listing, there is a NHL regulation rink plus a studio rink, more meant for youth hockey and figure skating.

Courtesy of Loopnet

Ice Factory of Central Florida (Courtesy of Loopnet)

The rink is off of the Florida Turnpike but it’s on the south side of the Orlando metro area between Kissimmee and St. Cloud. In a way, you could tell the developers were betting in a building boom on the south side of Disney and to the east. Instead, most of the activity is to the north of downtown Orlando. The north side, in Winter Garden, is where a new ice rink complex is being built to serve the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears to get them out of the very busy (and very clean/nice) RDV Sportsplex just down the road.

This rink is a better deal at $2.8 million [EDIT: Sometime after this was posted, the price has gone up to $3.8 million]. If someone wants to make this place flourish they will have to find a way to market themselves more to tournaments and camps during all parts of the year to folks up north. It’s a little too far away from Lakeland—60 minutes—to market to figure skaters and youth hockey players looking for more ice time other than an odd pick-up. With the new rink coming north of Orlando, someone managing this rink will have to be creative as well as on top of the books.

The folks already do broomball, speed skating and have a bar to add to profits. Many rinks need to look at utilities and labor costs to see if the current fees and admission prices are appropriate. But beyond that, unique training sessions should be offered—the type of drills and tools you’d see at camps but in smaller, weekly settings—to bring in new revenue.

Courtesy of Loopnet

Former Sunrise Ice Chalet (Courtesy of Loopnet)

Down in the greater Ft. Lauderdale area, a shuttered ice rink is on the block that just by the architecture, I wish I could go in and see this place. Yet I can see that this place probably quickly showed its age.

The Sunrise Ice Chalet has an asking price of $2.4 million. And yes, it does look like a chalet with that Swiss-inspired architecture.

This is one building that I don’t think should or could be brought back as an ice rink at this time.

The rink is just 10 miles from the Florida Panther IceDen in Coral Springs, practice facility of the NHL club playing in Sunrise. That is a newer, much better facility.

Until the Florida Panthers get its act together back in the playoffs and resolve attendance issues, the ice rink situation is what it is in the Ft. Lauderdale market.