City hall packed for meeting on Green Island Ice Arena

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The La Crosse Board of Park Commissioners met with the public Thursday night to update people on the status of the Green Island Ice Arena.

City hall was packed with people concerned about the future of youth hockey and the arena itself.

Green Island is home to hundreds of young athletes and the Coulee Region Chill. The Chill have maintained the facility for five years but did not continue an agreement with the city due to rising rent costs and expensive repairs.

There is fear circulating that the Green Island Ice Arena could close for good after the city announced plans to shut down the ice in June for the summer months.

Discussion was heated at times, with many arena users upset that the building wasn’t better maintained throughout the years.

A concerned La Crosse resident and longtime arena user, Virginia Wintersteen, said “It is unfortunate that everybody in this room is paying the consequence of our city council and their lack of responsibility to maintain a building. I have used that building for the 31 years I’ve been here.”

City officials have said they can’t afford to use taxpayer dollars to pay for the building.

President of River City Youth Hockey, Ryan Sauter, asked the council to look past the financial roadblocks and toward impacts that closing the arena would have on the community.

“I plead with city council, and board members. Consider the impacts beyond the financial. Consider the impacts that these decisions will have on these children, on our families, and on our culture,” said Sauter.

Director of the Board of Park Commissioners, Jay Odegaard, defended the council saying he wants to get everyone on the same page moving forward.

“What I’m trying to do here, and what Jared Flick, and the rest of our staff are going to try and do is find a solution. That’s our number one goal,” said Odegaard. “As we sit here we continue to hear about these other communities, and the programs, and the facilities they have and ‘Why can’t we in the city of La Crosse?’ My challenge to you is – all of those are run by the youth hockey programs.”

Currently there is no timeline or plan for the future of the Green Island Ice Arena, but the board plans to appoint two members, and a handful of city council members to work with organizations that use the facility, and discuss moving forward by April.