Sunday, November 28, 2021
Nov. 28, 2021

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Vancouver’s only ice rink to remain open after approved sale

City Bible Church puts school project on hold, Mountain View Ice Arena no longer closing

By , Columbian Staff Writer

Vancouver’s lone ice rink is here to stay, after all.

After announcing an impending closure in early April, Mountain View Ice Arena owners announced Friday that it will remain open. City Bible Church elders approved the building’s sale Thursday evening, officially shuttering the church’s plan to build a school in its place.

Rink owner and church member Bruce Wood said he and rink manager Bob Knoerl delivered a letter of intent to purchase the rink to the church Tuesday. The sale was approved at approximately $4.1 million and included the reimbursement of costs incurred by City Christian Schools to convert the rink to a school.

“We’ve begun a journey to purchase the Mountain View Ice Arena and make it our permanent home,” Knoerl said in a letter addressed to rink users.

That marks a change of direction from an April 4 post on Mountain View Ice Arena’s Facebook page notifying patrons the rink would close Aug. 31. City Bible Church planned to convert the ice rink into a 20,000-square-foot school for students in kindergarten to fifth grade, according to a 2016 preliminary application with the city of Vancouver.

Wood had been working on locating a new location for the rink for more than a year and met with officials at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in recent months as a potential site.

Knoerl said the current sale is less than half of what it would cost to relocate.

After the announced closure, an online petition asking the church to extend the lease through March 2019 amassed 1,627 signatures. Knoerl cited the reaction from the local ice-skating community as playing a “significant role” in the sale of the rink, which sees approximately 2,000 users per week.

For many, the rink closure would have left them scrambling for options. 

Devin McDonald, 20, is a Vancouver native pursuing professional figure skating. He trains most days of the week and is on a test track, which is a series of tests in freestyle skating, in hopes that his rank will rise to qualify him for competitions against skaters his age.

Without the rink he would have commuted to and from Seattle multiple times a week due to the lack of options in the greater Portland metro area.

“This saves me significant time and money,” McDonald said.

For Peter Debad, 54, rink closure would have forced him to stop playing hockey altogether. The New Westminster, B.C. native commutes from Sandy — an hour each way — every Monday for a private skate with a group of friends and is participating in a tournament this weekend at the rink in what they thought was a last hurrah.

Now with what could be long term stability, Debad feels a sense of relief.

“It’s well worth the trip,” Debad said. It means I can continue playing until I’m old and grey.”

Joked Debad: “Basically they’ll pry this stick out of my cold dead hands.”

Wood and Knoerl have raised $750,000. They plan to turn to community support and an SBA 504 loan for the rest.

“I’ve always been passionate that the rink should be owned by the people who use the rink. We just need to figure out what that looks like from a financial perspective,” Wood said. “We have an ongoing business and could afford to service some sort of debt.”

City Bible Church bought the rink in 2006 and converted a portion of it into a church, while keeping the rink open. It put $250,000 into the rink in order to keep it open and has leased it at less than 1/5th the market value, according to Wood.

“It’s a challenge now because we have to close the sale, but we’re pretty confident we can do that. We’re thankful the church approved us doing this,” Wood said.

Before it was purchased by the church, the rink was losing $1 million per year, Wood explained.

“We’ve been subsidized by the church for 10 years, we’ve paid very little rent at all,” Wood said. “Now we’ll have to step up because we’ll have a mortgage payment. Main thing is keeping the rink open and trying to keep the cost down to the people that use it.”

Columbian Staff Writer