After comments Tuesday from the presidents and CEOs of K21 Health Foundation and Warsaw Community Development Corp., the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board voted to continue studying having an ice rink in the city.

Rich Haddad, president and CEO of K21, spoke to the board about what the health foundation’s pledge of $1 million toward an ice rinks “really means” and what its intent is. The pledge was announced in September.

“Just three areas I want to make sure are crystal clear,” he said. “First of all, the pledge that the board indicated was for $1 million to go toward the construction of a permanent ice rink facility for the community.”

He said that while the K21 recognizes the potential total cost of a permanent facility might exceed $1 million, it’s just indicating K21 has made a commitment for $1 million.

“If it turns out the solution is more than a million, then additional funding has to be pursued. I’m not saying that K21’s board wouldn’t consider funding beyond that, but at this time the pledge that we’re making is: whatever solution is ultimately presented and approved can be assured there will be a $1 million funding from K21,” Haddad said.

Secondly, he said, there has to be a commitment that the ice rink will be located in the central part of the county for maximum benefit of county residents. Haddad said K21 interprets that as the greater Warsaw/Winona Lake area.

The third clarification he made was that the K21’s desire for the project it was pledging to “is to consider or to present a plan that would have 12 months of benefit for the community or 12 months of value. So the hope we would have – the motivation or the primary intent – is that an ice rink gets built for the community and operates for the community so that we have year-round opportunities to be active as a family, as residents and this community.”

He said K21 hopes the facility would have year-round value and be used for many different things throughout the year.

“There isn’t any more specifics or commitments or location beyond what I laid out here,” Haddad said.

Park Board President Steve Haines said the board looked seriously at an ice rink where the tennis courts are now at Center Lake, but would keep tennis courts and add pickleball courts there. He said they figured the cost would be between $2-$4 million for the building and equipment to get started.

Board member Michelle Boxell asked if there was a limited time or expiration date for the $1 million grant.

“There isn’t currently a limit. I would say the first doable plan that would come to us that we believe is attainable, we would be open to approve. So, again, I don’t want to also make the assumption that the Warsaw Parks is the only possible solution, so if there were multiple plans presented, then I think we’d have to think through which the pledge would go to,” Haddad said, adding that they couldn’t see a scenario in which more than one ice rink in the county was built.

From the floor, John Warren asked Haddad what size of ice rink was the K21 board thinking about. Haddad said most of the planning and idea of an ice rink was that it needed to be big enough to accommodate a significant amount of public open skating.

“I think the question tends to be, do you make it big enough that it’s an official hockey rink, which would provide opportunities if you wanted to have adult hockey leagues and be able to charge for those sort of opportunities,” Haddad said.

He said K21 doesn’t have any specifics, other than it wants it to be large enough to be able to support the size of the community.

There was some discussion on the size of an official hockey league, and whether that’s 100 feet by 80 feet or 150 by 100 or 120 by 80 or 140 by 80.

Rob Parker, president and CEO of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce and director of WCDC, said WCDC had a meeting Tuesday and its members wanted to express their support for the ice rink in downtown Warsaw.

“We think it’s just a huge economic driver for visitors and bringing in traffic into the downtown, and also bringing residents to stay in the downtown. We think it’s going to be a great asset to the downtown, he said.

Parker then read a letter the WCDC board wrote expressing its support for the ice rink to be built at Center Lake Park.

He said from a Chamber perspective, “I’m just happy that this is coming to our community.” He said he was one of the individuals who wrote a Kosciusko Leadership Academy White Paper on the ice rink and he believes that winter-time activity is critical for the health of the community and bringing people together.

“We’re fully supportive of this and whatever we can do to help we’re going to do so,” Parker said of the Chamber’s support.

After a little further discussion, the Parks Board voted to further study the ice rink.