The Benton H. Wilcoxon Municipal Ice Complex (MIC) opened to the public on December 15, 1991. It was a world class facility featuring two separate ice surfaces with many supporting amenities. At that time, it was recognized as one of the premier ice rinks in the Southeast where there were few two-sheet facilities in existence. The operation and maintenance of the MIC is governed by a Board of Control (BoC) made up of nine members who are appointed by either the Mayor or the City Council.
Community needs and user group activity have increased over time and now challenge the existing facility’s capacity. The additional locker rooms, restrooms and training space currently under construction will help that situation as well as increase our ability to host major events. Additional deficiencies within the current Ice Complex facility continue to limit our ability to function effectively on a daily basis. All of the components from the original construction, including the building, as well as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, were designed and constructed with the initial cost as the driving factor. Most systems were designed around a 20-25 year life expectancy. Updating these systems to meet current standards requires all new installations as existing equipment can no longer be repaired. Additional renovations are required to meet current building codes and ADA regulations.
In 2015, the Friends of Recreational Ice Activities (FRIA) began a fundraising campaign to raise $400,000 to contribute to the facility’s capital expenditure needs. MIC management, along with the BoC, approached the City with a request for a capital contribution for the additional funds needed to complete the necessary repairs and improvements. The City requested a facility assessment which was then submitted in 2016. A copy of that report can be found here - http://www.hsviceplex.org/wpcontent/uploads/2019/10/2016-Facility-Assessment.pdf. Facility management offered two options as solutions for the problems that were detailed in the assessment. The first option involved renovating the current facility in 6 phases in order to keep one ice sheet operational at all times. The second option suggested a new facility. At that time, the Board of Control voted to endorse Option 2, the new facility, and sent that recommendation to the City. For budgetary reasons, in 2016 the City made the decision to move forward with Option 1, the renovation, and agreed to fund $8M over the course of 2018-2020 in addition to the locker room expansion funding.
In July 2017, we invited the public to attend a State of the Rink meeting held at the facility to highlight the plans for the expansion project. John Hamilton, the Huntsville City Administrator and Steve Clough, the MIC Senior Facility Manager, were both in attendance and held a question and answer session for the public. Several users spoke at the meeting in support of the FRIA fundraising effort. To date, FRIA has raised $396,738.62. A portion of those funds has been used to purchase and install new Rink 1 dasher boards and Rink 2 gates to access the new locker rooms, as well as equipment for the locker room addition.
Unfortunately, however, the city funds that had been promised for 2018 were then redirected to other more urgent city needs and the Ice Complex renovation project was put on hold until this year. During this time spent on hold, construction prices have continued to increase and the bids for the renovation project recently came in just over $12M. Initially, the City said we would be held to the original $8M allowance, but subsequently, they agreed to fund $11M. That $1M reduction in the budget resulted in the elimination of the Rink 2 seating and associated demo as well as the proposed new administrative offices.
It should also be noted that since its opening, the MIC has never required City funding to sustain operation. Prior to the current expansion project and upcoming renovation, the only capital improvement expenditure in the facility’s 25 year history requiring a City contribution was approximately $800K in 2009 for refrigeration piping replacement.