In the winter months, teacher Ed Loiselle's days are bookended by hockey practices at the Shakopee Ice Arena. He's up at 4:45 a.m. to coach the boy's high school varsity team and later picks up his son when his youth hockey team's practice ends at 10:45 p.m.
"The reality of those extremes is just not normal," Loiselle said.
His isn't the only Shakopee hockey family in a scheduling pickle. With just one rink in a suburb of nearly 40,000, 40 youth teams and the high school teams scramble to get ice time, and they have to take whatever they can get.
But that may change soon, as the city of Shakopee considers plans to build a new two-rink arena, along with other updates to the existing Shakopee Community Center.
Mayor Brad Tabke is spearheading the effort to improve the community center and arena, but whether residents will support the project is still an open question. Three referendums that proposed creating community center updates, including a pool and another sheet of ice, have failed since 1999.
"I feel that our community really needs to have better amenities and services," Tabke said.
The City Council voted to move forward with the two-rink plan, and a consultant and an architect are looking at the feasibility of that option, drawing up designs and determining the cost. The City Council will discuss those findings at a March 31 meeting.
"I can't tell you the need," Loiselle said. "Basically, the other communities we compete against are getting 50 percent more ice than we are."
That means some teams must practice in Bloomington, Prior Lake and Eden Prairie, said Chris Nadeau, a Shakopee parent of two hockey players.
There's no place for kids to store their gear at the current ice arena and no extra time for activities like figure skating or adapted hockey, she added.
Pools, playgrounds, possibilities
The City Council is still pondering what amenities to add to the existing community center, which was built in 1995 and designed to be expanded. Options include a pool or water feature, an indoor playground, an enclosed field with artificial turf for multiple sports, more fitness areas including studios and gym space, a senior center and an arts and cultural area, Tabke said.
Jamie Polley, Shakopee's parks and recreation director, said she often hears about the need for a drop-in child care center, something Tabke said will likely be considered.
If the new two-rink facility is built, the existing arena could be turned into an aquatic facility, adding an upper level with other amenities, Tabke said.
One variable is that the Shakopee school district, which will ask voters to approve a $102.5 million building bond and a $25 million technology levy in May. That package includes an activities center for physical education and athletics at the high school and some outdoor athletic fields. Whether the referendum passes will determine if the community center needs more gym space or something else.
Tabke said he's happy with what's being discussed now and believes the arena and community center will be improved — but isn't sure what the exact outcome will be. Shakopee is far behind other cities, and there's "tremendous support from the community" now to make improvements, he said.
The plans "would turn what is currently a mediocre facility, at best, into a top-notch facility that we can all be proud of," Tabke said.
Paying for it
It's still unclear how the community will pay for the new facility.
Polley said options presented have been a referendum, bonds or interfund loans that don't require voter approval or donations. Nadeau, who moved to Shakopee in 1997, noted that in order to get the original community center built, a previous Council found existing money in the budget instead of relying on residents to pass a referendum.
Polley agrees with Tabke that there's a lot of excitement building around the community center plans, she said.
"It's got a different feeling," she said. "I can't pinpoint exactly what it is, but it's exciting."