Ice Valley to return

The Kankakee Valley Park District Board is considering contracting out management of the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena and Splash Valley Aquatic Park.

The Kankakee Valley Park District is exploring the option of hiring a management company to handle the day-to-day operations of Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena and Splash Valley Aquatic Park.

The board heard a presentation from Rink Management Services Corp.’s owner Tom Hillgrove at its board committee meeting on Monday at the Bird Park administration building. Hillgrove said one of his representatives recently toured Ice Valley.

“There are a lot of positive things about the facility,” Hillgrove said. “I think where Rink Management Services can add value is we can bring the full force. All park districts — everything is tight now, and we just go from efficiency just because we run 30 rinks.”

All current employees at the Ice Valley Centre and Splash Valley would be retained under the new management. Rink Management would also handle the maintenance at both facilities.

“You’ve got a decent staff there, and I think we could provide some guidance for them and some resources,” Hillgrove said.

The park district and Rink Management are just in the discussion stages of a possible management deal. The preliminary cost projection would have KVPD pay Rink Management $5,850 per month to run both facilities. Dayna Heitz, executive director of the KVPD, said the board has talked about looking at the management of Ice Valley and Splash Valley and was open to hearing from Rink Management.

“We’ve got to drive revenues, and that means we’ve got to create programs and products that people want to purchase and deliver on them and create memorable experiences for them,” Hillgrove said. “... You’ve got a good location. I’d like to have a few more people in town, but we’ve just got to get the people that are there motivated and come and try skating and different ice sports.”

Rink Management Services, based in Mechanicsville, Va., has 1,900 employees in 18 states, and they also run three large aquatic facilities so they have experience in the mechanics of swimming pools. It manages the rinks at Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park in Chicago and for the park district in Effingham.

“Not everyone likes skating, but most people like to cool off in the summer,” Hillgrove said.

Board member Don Palmer asked what Rink Management would do to boost revenues for Ice Valley.

Hillgrove said they would offer programs such as learn to skate, learn to play hockey, possibly synchronized skating as well as public skates.

“We’ll get the programs and get the word out in the community, largely through social media and piggyback on anything the park district is doing,” Hillgrove said. “We’re pretty good at driving it. Once you get them in, we capture their contact information and deliver a good experience.”

Rink Management would also work with the local hockey clubs to coordinate their usage of the rink.

The board agreed that it would like to discuss the potential agreement further, look at some cost analysis from Rink Management and meet with them again before making any decision. It will be back on the agenda at the Jan. 26 monthly board meeting.

When the Ice Valley first opened in 2005, it was run by a rink management company. That company eventually went out of business, and KVPD has managed the rink since 2008.