Joint arena plan revived

Leader Reporter

A combined ice hockey/equestrian facility at the Shawano County Fairgrounds is one step closer to reality.

Wednesday night the Shaw-ano Area Ag Society, which manages the county fairgrounds, gave its approval to a new plan proposed for the facility by the Shawano Hockey Association and the county's 4-H Horse Project Key Commit-tee.

An earlier plan had called for the purchase of the Tri-County Ice Facility from the Fox Valley area and moving it to the Shawano County Fairgrounds. But after several meetings and much discussion the two groups realized that facility could not be used in the way in which they had hoped.

The new plan outlined to the Ag Society calls for the construction of a totally new facility which will be called the Shawano County Expo Center.

According to Rod Christensen, the chairman of the 4-H Horse Project Key Committee, the groups have reached a compromise on what the facility will be like and how it will be operated.

"In working together for the benefit of the kids we have been able to reach this agreement," said Christensen. "The fundraising for the additional money needed to complete the project will be through a combined effort of the groups involved."

The Expo Center will be a 125 by 250 foot enclosed structure with concession and bathroom facilities inside. It will also be heated, have insulation and air conditioning.

Bruce Reynolds of the hockey association said a unique system for providing an ice surface will be used in the building that will allow use for ice activities and activities for horse shows and other events.

"A hard dirt surface will be placed in the building with a couple inches of sand on top of that," said Reynolds. "Then a large portable mat will be rolled out over that surface. Inside the mat will be freezing coils that will be filled with fluid that will be frozen. Then a few inches or so of water will be spread over the mat and then frozen to allow skating."

According to Reynolds at the end of the ice season the mats can be rolled up with the fluid being drained from inside. They can then be stored with plywood covering them for protection. Then the remaining dirt surface can be used for other activities such as horse shows and related events.

Christensen explained to the society that the new Expo center will be built on the present site of the horse riding arena. Then outside the building, portable corral panels will be put into place for a new riding arena. The group then will have space inside the new building and a new riding arena that can be taken down when that area is needed for parking or other uses.

Dick Stout of the Shawano Hockey Association said the expo center group hopes to have money raised and the building ready for use for ice activities by Nov. 1, 2000. On March 1 there will be a kickoff meeting to start the drive to raise the necessary additional funds.

The county in 1999 agreed to donate $200,000 to the project. The City of Shawano agreed to give $100,000. Both donations were with the understanding it would be a joint use facility.

The groups hope to break ground on the expo facility by June 1. They hope to have an additional $350,000 raised in private funds by then. Reynolds said an additional $500,000 total will need to be raised above and beyond what the city and county agreed to donate to the project.

Leaders of both groups expressed confidence that they soon would be able to raise the funds still needed from private sources.

Tom Mehlberg, who is a member of the horse organization and the Shawano County 4-H executive board said it's good that the groups were able to work together and reach an agreement on a facility that can be used by all.

Christensen said the agreement also leaves open the possibility of adding to the facility when additional space is needed.

"Any extension or addition to the facility will be done by all," said Christensen. "All of the groups will be in it together. We want to get this facility up and ready for the kids and we will be able to do that by working together."

In December, it appeared that the idea of a joint use facility for ice and horse activities in Shawano County might have been dead. Members of the 4-H Horse Project Key Committee were ready to move forward on plans to construct their own building. But the groups got together and through a series of meetings and discussions were able to reach the agreement presented Wednesday night.

Both groups and the Ag Society agreed that some changes will need to be made in the joint management agreement that had been approved by the groups and the city and the county regarding the facility's operation.

Those at Wednesday's meeting agreed that fine tuning the management agreement should present no real major obstacles to getting the project completed.

The Shawano County Ag and Extension Education Committee is meeting Friday at 1 p.m. and the proposal will be on the agenda for discussion then.

Any changes in the management agreement must be approved by both the county board of supervisors, the Shawano city council and the ice hockey and horse groups.

By Joe Vandel
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