By Elizabeth Matthews
Fairview Heights, IL (KSDK) - The entire southern Illinois hockey community is on pins and needles as the fate of an ice rink is up in the air.
The U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights has some structural damage due to mine subsidence.
The Department of Natural Resources says it's not that bad. The ground has fallen about 22 inches and they expect it will fall a few more, so there's still no word on when the facility will reopen. The hockey community says until then they have to figure something out.
"It's unfathomable how bad this is," said Jordan Araiza, a hockey coach for Belleville West.
That same sentiment is shared by thousands right now. The temporary closing of the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights has affected dozens of child, teen, and adult hockey leagues.
"We've scheduled 193 games in Fairview Heights alone this year and we are going to have to find another place for those games," said a coach for East Alton, Larry Thatcher, who's also the general manager of the East Alton Ice Arena.
"This is not great for us, this is devastating, not only to Fairview Heights, but to the entire hockey community of St. Louis," said Thatcher.
That's because there's not enough ice, especially in the fall and winter months, to go around. There are only three rinks in the Metro East and now they are down to two. Meanwhile, skaters are losing precious ice time and with high school hockey just starting, Araiza says this is a huge blow to the individual skaters.
"Take away all of the games, it's the practice time, for ice skaters to get good and competitive they need more and more repetition and practice," said Araiza.
Soon opposing teams may have to practice with one another on the same ice, at least that's been discussed as a possible option. Thatcher also says there's a possibility of making games a little shorter, which allows for more games to be played. He says they are going to need all rinks on board.
"I just couldn't stand the thought that they didn't get to play those that last year of their high school, hockey career, it's why we built the place, it's for the kids," said Thatcher.
After a conference call Thursday morning the high school coaches and league presidents all agreed to meet at 6:30 p.m. to figure out their next move. So far cancelling the season is not an option.
Below are area ice rinks available to the public:
Affton Ice Rink
10300 Gravois Road, St. Louis
East Alton Ice Arena
631 Lewis and Clark Boulevard, East Alton, IL 62024
Granite City Ice Arena
2900 Benton Street, Granite City, IL 62040
Kirkwood Ice Skating Rink
111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood
The following are only for public use, no room for additional hockey leagues:
Hardees Ice Plex
16851 North Outer 40, Chesterfield
5555 Saint Louis Mills Circle, Hazelwood
No answer for the following ice rinks:
Creve Coeur Ice Arena
11400 Olde Cabin Road, St. Louis
Midwest Sport Hockey, Inc
570 Weidman Road, Ballwin
Shaw Park, open Friday, November 23rd
217 South Brentwood Boulevard, St. Louis
Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park, closed for the season
400 Jefferson Drive, St. Louis