After discussing the pros and cons for more than 45 minutes, the Kankakee Valley Park District board decided to not go forward with hiring a firm to run both Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena and Splash Valley Aquatic Park.
The board also heard another pitch from Rink Management Services’ owner Tom Hillgrove via Zoom on Monday at the board meeting at the Bird Park administration building. The board was deadlocked at 2-2 on a motion to not move forward with a contract with Rink Management, so it moved on from considering a contract.
Board member J.J. Hollis and board president Bill Spriggs both voted not to move forward with considering a contract.
“We’ve been down this road before letting someone else run our facilities. It didn’t work out,” Hollis said. “Kankakee, I know, is place where people want people from here, to be hands-on here and to talk to and not on a Zoom call. ... They want to talk to people right now. That was a problem we had before.”
Hollis said that the idea of a management company to run the facilities was brought up by a commissioner who is no longer on the board.
“That’s just the way I feel,” Hollis said. “That’s nothing against this company. I think it’s a great company. I researched it and made my own calls. At the same time I don’t feel comfortable [because] I think we have people that are more than capable of running those facilities and doing what they need to do.”
The preliminary cost projection would’ve had KVPD pay Rink Management $5,850 per month to run both facilities.
Spriggs said he thought it was just too much money to shell out to a company to run the facilities.
“I think there’s a lot of money that is going to change hands, and I think we are going to be able to run this ice arena ourselves,” he said. “I’ve talked to Dayna [Heitz, executive director] at length over this, and we both seem to feel the people who are there now are doing a good job and will continue to do a good job without us paying out money every month to a management group.”
Board members David Skelly and Don Palmer voted to not end contract talks with Rink Management.
“I think the possibility for improvement is huge,” Palmer said.
Heitz said the board asked her this past September that she look into a management company to run the facilities. She was neutral on the idea, but needed the board to make a decision so she could start working on getting Splash Valley ready for a Memorial Day weekend opening.
Rink Management Services, based in Mechanicsville, Va., has 1,900 employees in 18 states. It manages the rinks at Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park in Chicago and has a contract with the park district in Effingham.
“We could do more than pay for ourselves,” Hillgrove said before the vote. “... I’d also work with your team. If you’re not happy with us after a year, we will give you a very professional, smooth and peaceful transition [out of the contract]. Without a doubt, your team would be better off a year from now than right now just with the systems we can put in place.
“... I don’t need a headache. If I didn’t think we could make this work and make a difference, we wouldn’t have put it as much effort into trying to show your team what we could do.”
Spriggs said in the beginning of the discussions he didn’t see a need for a management company to run Splash Valley, and Rink Management said it would be OK with just managing Ice Valley.
“You’ll have a proven system for accounting, you’ll have a proven system for marketing,” Hillgrove said.
After the meeting Hollis said he did receive a couple calls from residents on the issue, and said the district can do more to increase the number of people using the rink and aquatic park.
“I think we have an adequate, competent staff that can make that happen,” he said. “We have great leadership here that I know can make it happen. COVID has hit us hard, but the advantage of that is our staff has been able to come up new and innovative ways to deal with things. That’s going to be beneficial for us moving forward.”