Hara closing likely means more hockey business in Springfield

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Dayton-area hockey teams have called the NTPRD Chilled looking for ice time after the Hara Arena in Montgomery County announced it will close at the end of August.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews


By the numbers:

500: Number of children are involved hockey and skating classes so far in 2016 at the Chiller.

22,000: Participants at open skate times in the fall 2015-winter 2016 season at the Chiller.

$8.5 million: Cost of the Chiller project in 2013.

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The Springfield News-Sun digs into stories that affect jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on local investment into the collegiate summer baseball team the Champion City Kings.

Unmatched coverage

The Springfield News-Sun digs into stories that affect jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on local investment into the collegiate summer baseball team the Champion City Kings.

The Chiller ice rink in downtown Springfield could see a boom in business with the closing of Hara Arena in Montgomery County.

Hara Arena will close its doors in less than a month, after more than 60 years of holding sports, concerts, entertainment and special interest shows in the Miami Valley.

The venue had a $36 million annual economic impact on the area and some of that money could move to Clark County.

Hockey teams that used the ice at Hara for practices and games have reached out to the NTPRD Chiller, 301 W. Main St. in downtown Springfield, looking for a new home, Chiller Operations Director Andrew Lutz said.

>>RELATED: Last event for Hara Arena later this month

“While as a business it’s great to get new patrons, great to get people who want to play here, it’s sad to see any rink close down,” Lutz said.

Dayton youth hockey leagues used the ice at Hara for almost 11 hours a week for practices, organizers have said, plus held games and tournaments on the weekends from August through March.

“If those customers are looking for a home, we’re here,” Lutz said.

>>MORE DETAILS: Area youth hockey to feel impact of loss of Hara Arena

>>GALLERY: Hara Arena through the years

Springfield and Clark County youth involvement in ice sports has boomed in the short time period the The Chiller opened in 2013.

More than 500 area children are involved in the Junior Jackets Hockey classes and skating classes, arena management said.

Public skate times at the Chiller brought in about 22,000 participants in the fall 2015/winter 2016 season.

And combined with 52 private group rentals at the ice rink in 2015, there were more than 100,000 participants and spectators at the arena last year, management said.

The National Trail Parks and Recreation District built the $8.5 million ice arena using money from its $17 million capital campaign, district Director Leann Castillo said, which included donations from local and private donors and a temporary sales tax hike.

Daily operations and expenses of the rink are managed by the Chiller company, Castillo said.

The ice rink saw about 100,000 visitors in its first year of existence and the numbers keep growing, Lutz said.

“Our skating classes have more than doubled in the last year,” he said.

More than 100 people have signed up for skating classes this year compared to only 46 in 2015, Lutz said.

Dozens of other youth and families are involved in the several youth hockey teams that call the Chiller home.

Expanding hockey programs are one way the Chiller continues to grow, Lutz said.

More than 50 local hockey players ages 5 to 14 packed the ice this week at a Columbus Blue Jackets summer hockey camp, coach Andy Pokupec said.

This is the third year the Blue Jackets camp came to town, Pokupec said, and each year it has grown.

“It’s a sport that not a lot of people get exposed to in this part of the country usually,” he said.

As a new hockey season gears up to start in the next month, Lutz said for the first time the Chiller will have individual teams for each age range: Mini-mites, mites, squirts, peewee and bantam teams.

The Chiller’s bantam team, which includes players ages 13 to 14 years old, won a tournament last season beating teams from Columbus and Southeast Ohio, Lutz said. That was only the team’s second season together.

The growth of ice sports continues, including skating, hockey and curling leagues, Lutz said.

Adult hockey leagues also play at the Chiller, Castillo said. Two teams currently play in the summer session and Chiller management anticipate nine or 10 teams to form in the fall and winter leagues.

“This year we plan to have even more participants, more players,” he said.