After a few setbacks, the Florida Hospital Center Ice complex may open sometime before Labor Day.
Initially, the opening for the $20 million project, at 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd., had been slated for last October.
However, weather and installation of the refrigeration system pushed back the timetable for the 150,000-square foot complex.
Developer Gordie Zimmerman, of Z Mitch, said the facility’s opening is currently “at the mercy of the refrigeration company.”
“It’s not your average double-ice rink that you see in this area,” said Zimmerman, who helped develop the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. “To build five rinks in one building under one system, it really is a technological challenge — like going to the moon.
“We have (the issue) resolved. We just don’t know exactly the timeframe.”
Once complete, the complex will have four full-size ice rinks, and a mini-rink for ice hockey and figure skating — making it the largest ice rink complex in the Southeast.
Additionally, the facility will be multipurpose for other sports like basketball, soccer, lacrosse and volleyball.
“We can do a lot of other different things that other facilities— whether they’re a single sheet or a double sheet— can’t do. We have the ability to do more programming at the same time,” Zimmerman explained
“This facility is going to open up a lot of avenues, not just for hockey, but for figure skating, street hockey and multiple sports,” he said.
Zimmerman isn’t quite sure yet what membership costs or membership totals will be, but he said “we’ll probably double the size of USA Hockey membership in the Bay Area once we come on line.”
The facility expects to staff “somewhere in the area” of 20 full-time and 30 part-time employees, Zimmerman said.
“We have taken in probably 100 resumes…from people of interest,” he said. “We’re really looking for ice maintenance (employees)…because of all the new technology.”
Zimmerman already has a hockey department staff in place, and recently hired Shari Trotter, the figure skating director at the Ashburn Ice House in Washington D.C., to serve as the executive figure skating director for Center Ice.
Pasco County tourism manager Ed Caum said the sprawling facility will increase tourism and have a “major economic impact” for the Tampa area.
He believes it will “create a buzz,” from Pasco County to Bradenton.
“People will start calling us the ‘Ice-75’ corridor. From all the way up here to the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, there’s going to be a massive, massive need for time on the ice,” Caum said.
The tourism manager noted the facility will draw regional events, and perhaps, down the line, will attract national and international events, too.
“You can go after the USA Curling Championships. You can go after your artistic and dance-type events, and you can go after your big events like the NCAA Frozen Four.
“I know that (Zimmerman) does have a lot of friends up in Canada from when he played professionally, so I think we’ll see some international-type tournaments held in there, because people in the business know Gordie.”
While Caum doesn’t have a dollar figure on the amount of revenue Center Ice is expected to bring to Pasco County, he knows there’s already significant interest, because the county has five hotels in development.
“We don’t have the room stock that Hillsborough County does, so the economic impact is going to be shared with Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, because it’s going to be a regional draw,” Caum explained. “We’ve got good partners, and everybody’s going to benefit from this. …Even if people come here to skate at the ice center, they may want to stay on the beach or they may want to stay in Channelside.
However the tourists come, he said, “everybody wins.”
Published February 24, 2016