The walls are up, the ice has been poured, and droves of hockey players soon will visit Pasco County.
A hard-hat tour of the 150,500-square-foot Florida Hospital Center Ice Complex revealed significant progress of the $20 million project, at 3173 Cypress Ridge Road in Wesley Chapel.
A crowd of more than one hundred Pasco county business leaders and representatives toured the facility recently to learn about its features, and about available programs and sponsorship opportunities.
The facility is set to open “sometime in late October,” with a soft opening expected earlier, officials said.
Described as the largest ice sports facility in the southeastern United States, the building will house five ice rinks, a multipurpose sports floor, a 2,600-square-foot fitness facility and an indoor sprint tack.
There also will be a full-service family restaurant on the second floor and five party rooms totaling 17,000 square feet. Several corporate events have already been booked.
Florida Hospital also will have an office there, focusing specifically on enhancing sports performance and injury prevention.
“We’ve come a long way on this project (since) when we were looking at just an empty field,” said George Mitchell of Z Mitch, the facility’s developer. “It took a lot of imagination from the beginning.”
Officials believe the massive facility will attract 1.5 million to 2 million visitors annually, with 40 percent coming from outside Tampa Bay.
Former hockey pro Gordie Zimmermann, a Z Mitch partner, said the colossal edifice is creating a buzz as far north as Toronto and Montreal, two hockey-crazed cities.
“People up there are already talking about this building,” Zimmermann said. “We had some teams up there that are in the junior leagues that actually want to come down here and do training camps and tournaments here.
“It’s going to be great for our community to have the tournaments and programs — like the girls’ Olympic (hockey) team training, world-class figure skaters, USPHL (United States Professional Hockey League) teams here; we’re really looking at a top to bottom programming,” he added.
Zimmermann, who was an integral cog in developing the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, visited approximately 500 ice rinks throughout North America to conceptualize the Wesley Chapel venue.
One of the complex’s features that is drawing quite a bit interest from hockey directors in Canada isn’t even ice-related — it’s the indoor sprint track.
Zimmermann said more hockey players and athletes are using sprint tracks for conditioning, but Canada’s bitter cold temperatures make it difficult to train outdoors year-round.
“A lot of those program directors up there were looking at our website, saying, ‘Wow, you’ve got an indoor sport track to train on.’ They thought that was really good; that’s an attraction for them,” Zimmermann said.
Zimmermann already has a hockey and skating department in place.
Kevin Wolter, who spent 30 years within the USA Hockey Coaching Education program, was named as the facility’s general manager. Shari Trotter, the figure skating director at the Ashburn Ice House in Washington D.C., was hired to serve as the facility’s executive figure skating director.
Moreover, two maintenance staff members will be coming aboard in June to begin managing the facility’s refrigeration program.
In total, 20 full-time and 30 part-time employees will be working at the facility, Zimmermann said.
The initial opening was set for October 2015, but it was delayed by the weather and issues with the installation of the refrigeration system.
Florida Hospital Center Ice
The 150,500-square-foot complex will be the largest ice sports facility in the southeastern United States. Here are some details:
- One Olympic-size rink (200 feet by 100 feet)
- Two North American standard-size rinks (200 feet by 85 feet)
- One multipurpose sports floor/ice pad-multipurpose pad conversion
- A 2,600-square-foot fitness facility
- An indoor sprint track and conditioning area
- An onsite athletic trainers and sports performance program
- Five corporate/birthday party rooms
- A family sport restaurant
- Private and public locker rooms
- A hockey skills training area
- A revolving entrance door to control inside temperature environment
Florida Hospital Center Ice will have numerous programs and uses, including:
- Local, regional, national and international hockey tournaments
- University and high school teams’ practices and games
- Recreational leagues
- Hockey development programs
- Roller and street hockey
- Camps, clinics, multisport training
- Figure skating
- Public skating, birthday parties
- Sled hockey
- Indoor sports: box lacrosse, volleyball, basketball
- Sports Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention programs
- Corporate events, public meetings
Published June 4, 2016