La Crosse city officials seeking options to maintain Green Island Ice Arena

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The future of the Green Island Ice Arena may be in jeopardy if La Crosse city officials can’t find a way to maintain it. The building is home to hundreds of youth hockey athletes and the Coulee Region Chill.

“Winter sports are a part of our culture here,” said Ryan Sauter, president of River City Youth Hockey.

Whether it’s hockey, skating or curling, hundreds of athletes of all ages and abilities use this building to do something they love.

“They are looking to us to find a solution to help save their second home,” Sauter said.

The Coulee Region Chill has managed the facility for five years, but the building’s cost rose to something they can’t afford.

“They opted out of the management agreement with the city of La Crosse,” said Jay Odegaard, director of the La Crosse Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department.

The La Crosse Parks and Recreation Department started managing the facility so rec. clubs could still use the building.

“It was something we had not budgeted for,” Odegaard said.

This indoor ice rink carries a price tag.

“That arena operates at a net 100,000 loss,” Odegaard said.

Not to mention the building needs major mechanical fixes that control the ice.

“Both of those are in the neighborhood of million-dollar fixes,” Odegaard said.

With a decline in high school hockey teams that used the arena, and the Chill opting out of its contract, it has put Odegaard and his staff in a tough position.

“When you start talking about the cost per participant for the taxpayers, it is very difficult to justify maintaining the rink let alone invest millions of dollars to bring it up to speed,” he said.

Another organization needs to manage it. Sauter said his organization is willing.

“We just need a little time to put together a good business model,” Sauter said. “It would be a shame to see such a large part of our culture disappear.”

Odegaard is open to ideas. He wants to allow time for organizations to come up with a plan. The city needs help to keep these doors open.

“Remaining status quo is no longer a possibility,” Odegaard said.

The city will not operate summer ice when June comes around. Odegaard said that it is standard practice when the city has been in control of the building. That doesn’t mean they won’t bring the ice back in the fall. Another organization will have to take on management to keep it running long-term.