Harrison County

Hearts, ice melt while Coast awaits decision on skate park

Presley Havard, Kisha Davis and Blaire Sumrall show ice skating is fun even if you aren’t that good at it. They were at one of the Coast Coliseum’s public skates a couple of years ago.
Presley Havard, Kisha Davis and Blaire Sumrall show ice skating is fun even if you aren’t that good at it. They were at one of the Coast Coliseum’s public skates a couple of years ago. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

More than 260 people have signed a petition urging the Harrison County Board of Supervisors and the Biloxi School Board to bring an ice skating rink to defunct skate park on DeBuys Road in Gulfport.

Connie Rockco, supervisor from District 5 where the park is located, said the county can’t afford an ice skating rink, although a private company, South Mississippi Sports Management, has offered to spend $500,000 to convert the building to an ice rink and pay the county $1,000 a month rent for June, July and August and $2,000 a month the rest of the year.

Rockco said no decision has been made.

“It’s been pushed to the the back burner,” she said. “It’s not one of our top priorities — getting into more expense with that building.”

The county last year received four proposals for the facility, including the one from Sports Management, which wants to rename the park Planet Ice. Gonzaflex Productions wants to build a film production school there, A&A Entertainment wants to use it for an indoor roller skate park and Kevin Mattina of Biloxi wants to turn it into a facility for indoor soccer and related sports and training.

He has answers

Bo Lindsay, one of the partners in Sports Management, said the company would be willing to work with the county to make the ice rink happen and would work with the roller rink as well.

He said he hasn’t heard anything from the supervisors about their financial concerns, but he’d be willing to answer any questions they have.

He said the cost to county should be minimal and, he said, as the building sits empty, taxpayers are paying all the bills.

An engineering firm looked at the building, he said, and one of the partners runs a similar rink, also called Planet Ice in Lafayette, La.

“It was designed and built as a rink,” he said. “And specifically as a hockey rink. We didn’t draw this thing up on the back of napkin.”

Lindsay also helped run the public skating at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. He said hundreds skate there each day during the six weeks the Coliseum has ice.

Birth of the petition

That’s where Deb Nurmi met the people who are petitioning the supervisors.

“We’re just a group of parents and grandparents who want the supervisors to get off the fence and hopefully fall our way,” she said. “We tried calling but didn’t get any answers. We’re just trying to show that we have a lot of kids who want ice.”

She said skating has helped kids with ADHD and asthma and given some their first taste of snow when the Zamboni, the machine that grooms the ice, dumps its shaving outside the Coliseum.

“They all run out to play,” she said. “It’s the closest thing to snow they’ve seen.”

Nurmi said she hopes the supervisors take another look at the Planet Ice proposal. Rockco said they were about ready to start working on the skate park but doesn’t seem inclined to change her mind.

“Petitions don’t really mean a lot to me so I don’t want to be wasting their time,” she said. “They can bring what they want. I know what we can afford and what we can’t afford and right now we can’t afford any ice.

“I’m going to get back on that before the end of the month. I’d love to get that moving.”

In the meantime, the last ice of the season is melting as the Coliseum gears up for rodeos and the like.

“There were a lot of tears that last skate,” Nurmi said.

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