Anthony J. Kirchner: Closing Green Island rink hurts city

Anthony J. Kirchner: Closing Green Island rink hurts city

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I am a resident of La Crosse co-owner of Kirchner Custom Builders, which is a business that owns and develops property in La Crosse, operates as a general contractor within the city and employs 30 people — many of whom own their own properties in La Crosse.

I write to express my sincere disappointment with the city of La Crosse’s decision to close the city’s only indoor ice rink at Green Island Park.

I think it is important for those who have made this decision to understand that closing the indoor ice rink will have negative ramifications.

We discuss building locations and the “buy versus build” decision with more than 40 families per year.

We frequently witness customers choose to build or buy in Onalaska, Holmen or West Salem because of the better experiences these other communities provide for their children and families.

Closing the indoor ice rink will only reinforce the decision to build or move to municipalities other than La Crosse and will exacerbate the problems associated the conversion of single-family homes to rental properties within the city. If the city expects to compete with the other communities within La Crosse County, eliminating the indoor ice rink is a very poor place to start.

The elimination of the city’s only indoor ice rink is an embarrassment in light of other indoor ice rinks within the Coulee Region.

If this closing is consummated, La Crosse’s population (which is in excess of 50,000 residents) will not have an indoor ice rink. The city of Onalaska, however, will have two indoor ice rinks with a population of about 18,000.

The village of West Salem has one new indoor ice rink and a population slightly in excess of 5,000.

The cities of Viroqua and Sparta both have indoor ice rinks and populations of slightly less than 5,000. Similarly, La Crescent has an indoor ice rink and a population of just over 5,000.

The city of La Crosse is in the early steps of its City Vision 2040 Downtown Master Plan, which seeks to expand on La Crosse’s core value of community by including “livable neighborhoods with amenities,” yet the decision to close the only indoor ice rink in La Crosse (with a population in excess of 50,000 residents) puts its amenities behind all of La Crosse’s neighboring communities with only a fraction of La Crosse’s resident population.

Closing the city’s only indoor ice rink will have an impact on many groups within our city. These include sled hockey for disabled individuals, youth hockey, youth figure skating, adult curling and open skate for the general public.

Does the city of La Crosse really think it is best to eliminate these activities for its residents given that it is the largest municipality within La Crosse County? It is a shame if the city decision makers think so.

Finally, my family is involved with River City Youth Hockey, which is one of the reasons this issue is important to me. I know that many of our youth hockey players reside in the Washburn and Poage Park neighborhoods.

Is eliminating an indoor ice rink, which is in close proximity to these neighborhoods, consistent with the city’s desire to reinvigorate these same neighborhoods? I think not. Eliminating opportunities for kids in these neighborhoods is in direct conflict with the city’s stated goal of improving the Washburn and Poage Park neighborhoods and offering its residents livable neighborhoods with amenities.

It seems as if the decision to close the Green Island rink may be final. Those responsible for this decision should at least understand how this negatively impacts our city.

Anthony J. Kirchner resides in La Crosse


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