Pelham Civic Complex committee ‘encouraged’ by first meeting

Published 6:20 pm Thursday, April 14, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy and those involved in ice skating programs at the Pelham Civic Complex said they were optimistic after their first meeting to discuss ways to better the complex April 14.

During the hour-long meeting, the group discussed ways to draw more traffic to the Civic Complex and help reduce the facility’s financial deficit.

The meeting came a little more than week after the Pelham City Council decided it would not move forward with transforming the complex’s main ice arena into a fire museum. On April 11, Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock announced the museum will instead be constructed off Alabama 25 in Calera.

Because transforming the Civic Complex main ice arena into a fire museum would have left only the practice ice rink, many ice program participants voiced strong opposition to the plan.

Murphy previously said the Civic Complex loses an average of more than $950,000 per year, and asked those who are involved in the ice skating programs at the complex to help the city lower the deficit.

“I think we had a pretty positive meeting. Everyone had an opportunity to say what they wanted to say,” Murphy said. “We just tossed around ideas about how to make it more efficient, and we gave them some ideas about how to increase their numbers and draw more people to the ice.

“We’ve got to increase the number of people if we are going to have two ice rinks over there,” Murphy added.

Brandon Blankenship, a figure skating parent, attended the meeting and said he was encouraged by the open discussion.

“We took what could have been a tense situation and turned it into an open dialogue,” Blankenship said, noting the group discussed ways to draw more local, regional and national ice skating events to the complex.

Blankenship said Murphy proposed possibly creating an advisory board for the complex, which would be composed of city officials and “every group that has an interest in the complex.”

Because ice sports typically are seasonal, the group also proposed bringing events such as broomball competitions to the complex during the summer months.

Though Murphy and Blankenship agreed the meeting was positive, they said there is still much work to be done to reduce the facility’s economic deficit.

“One meeting is not going to change anything. If you just talk, it’s going to be much harder to actually accomplish anything,” Blankenship said, noting the committee pledged to meet at least once a month.

“We are excited and ready to go,” Murphy said. “We want to see more people coming in to support the Civic Complex and bringing down that cost.”