Carrie Rengers

City evaluates potential Ice Center managers

There's concern swirling through the ice skating community about a possible change in management at the Wichita Ice Center .

The city issued a request for proposals and now is evaluating three potential center managers.

That includes Virginia-based Rink Management Services , which currently manages the center, New Jersey-based Ice World Consulting and Genesis Health Clubs , the only local group that submitted a proposal.

Some parents of children who skate at the center have contacted the city to express concern that Genesis, which doesn't operate any ice facilities, appears to be the front runner.

"It would be detrimental to our skaters if a company took over the ice rink that had no experience," says Lisa Totten , whose 11-year-old daughter is a competitive skater.

"It's not just a business. There's technical expertise they need to know."

Doug Kupper, the city's director of park and recreation, says no decisions have been made on new management yet.

"To speculate who is and who isn't going to be managing the ice center is premature because we don't have anything at all finalized. We're nowhere near where we need to be in even going to the City Council with a recommendation."

In 2006, Rink Management got a two-year contract with the city to run the center, and that's been extended with two one-year contracts.

There are no renewals left, though, and the city had to issue an RFP "whether we liked them or didn't like them," Kupper says.

However, Rink Management's contract has been extended to March while the city makes a decision.

"They've been pretty good," Kupper says of the company, adding, "There's always room for improvements."

There have been two managers of the 14-year-old center, and the city managed it for one year between those managers.

Kupper says the city has learned a lot about managing the rink in that time and has structured its latest RFP to reflect an increased understanding.

For instance, the city wants to know how potential managers handle fees related to outside skating coaches and how it would provide adequate opportunities for low-income skaters.

"It's tweaking it here, tweaking it there," Kupper says. "That sort of thing was important to us this second go-around."

He says the center isn't designed to be a moneymaker, though he says it's important that it can pay its bills and handle maintenance.

"It holds its own. In the wintertime it makes a pretty good cash flow. In the summer it gets a little harder."

Kupper says the city wants the best company for current skaters "and hopefully somebody that will bring something new and attract more people."

He says it isn't an issue that Genesis hasn't managed ice rinks in the past.

"It doesn't mean that they can't find a quality ice arena manager to bring to our facility that has that experience."

Genesis president Rodney Steven isn't commenting on his proposal.

Kupper notes that Genesis is "a home-grown company."

It's something that may give the company an edge.

"I really like utilizing our local people any time that we can," City Council member Jeff Longwell says. "If they have the expertise to manage a large facility, and they have a great track record of being fiscally responsible, I like using local."

He says that doesn't mean Genesis will be the top choice, though, and he's not happy about all the rumors circulating over the decision.

"If you allow misinformation to be disseminated ... then you're doing the public a disservice."

Longwell says he wishes the city could react more quickly.

"We have ... the speed of light, the speed of sound, the speed at which I can run a hundred yards, and then way down the list the speed of government."

Kupper expects a decision by March.

"It may be the current folks. It may be something new."

InSiteful property

The Kansas area office of the American Diabetes Association is moving to Delano , which gives InSite Real Estate Group 100 percent occupancy at its new headquarters at 608 W. Douglas.

"It's a validation that there is demand for quality Class A space in the core area," says InSite's Dan Unruh .

"We had a lot of interest in this space."

InSite bought the 6,200-square-foot building a year ago.

"This building has been renovated extensively," Unruh says. "The only thing that's original is the structure."

InSite moved its offices there in May.

The Kansas office of the National Electrical Contractors Association moved into 1,748 square feet there a couple of weeks ago.

The location is what attracted executive director David Woodard .

"It seems to be a ... developing area," he says, noting that he especially likes the community atmosphere.

It has what Diabetes Association director Patti Tasker calls a "good vibe."

"We're so excited to go and be a part of that downtown area," she says. "We liked just that it's in midtown so that the people we serve will have easy access to getting to us."

Currently, the association's office is at 837 S. Hillside, where it has 4,500 square feet.

"It's a much bigger building," Tasker says. "We have a smaller staff now than we did when we ... moved here about 10 years ago."

The association will take 1,994 square feet when it moves in in late January.

Craig Ablah of Classic Real Estate represented the association in the deal.

Unruh says the redevelopment project was funded entirely by the private sector.

"There were no economic incentives from the city or any other governmental entity."

Location was a key factor in InSite's decision.

"It was the location that was the driver and the ability to provide private on-site parking," Unruh says. "We had been looking for a location for ourselves in the core area for quite some time."

The parking, the central location and the proximity to Kellogg were all attractive, Unruh says.

"It really filled our requirements almost entirely."

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