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SC3 joins forces with Ponderay, NIICE

Staff Writer | February 19, 2022 1:00 AM

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PONDERAY — Instead of building an ice rink at the fairgrounds, Sandpoint Community Center Corporation is pivoting to support efforts by Ponderay and North Idaho Ice to build a facility at the city's Field of Dreams.

The news follows discussions by Ponderay Mayor Steve Geiger with Bonner County Commission Chairman Dan McDonald and Dr. Robert Pierce, SC3 president. During those discussions, Geiger told the pair the city was open to all public-private partnerships which help the city leverage local option tax funds to further its Field of Dreams.

Pierce said he welcomed the idea of consolidating efforts in Ponderay.

“We like the idea of being closer to the population center and helping the fairground financials," he said. "However, Ponderay is very engaged and enthusiastic about this project and their step towards introducing an ice facility to the families of North Idaho. We are excited to help this community effort move forward at the Field of Dreams.”

Pierce said commissioners and the Bonner County Fair board have been very supportive of the proposed facility, something those seeking an ice rink in the community appreciate.

McDonald said he is happy all involved could come together and find a solution. He said he is excited for the future of the project.

“I've always been a great supporter of the concept of creating after-school activities for our youth," he added. "The benefits to all of the families, visitors, and businesses in Bonner County are very clear. The county commissioners agree, we will be all well-served by this facility- regardless of its location.”

The city and North Idaho Ice have been working for the past few months to bring ice sports to the community. Ponderay officials said in a press release. At this time Ponderay, with the assistance of NIICE, has purchase NHL compliant ice equipment with the intention of having an outdoor rink open to the public by the winter of 2022.

The proposed ice rink on county-owned land near the fairgrounds drew both critics and supporters. Critics, including Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, who claimed it gave away county-owned land and forced taxpayers to fund an unnecessary private facility.

Critics also said an ice rink behind the sheriff's office complex jeopardize security, eliminated the potential for a new justice facility at the site and could be seen as a move to "defund the police."

McDonald, as well as the rink's supporters, said the land was never promised as a future site for a justice center. The commissioner said the county retained ownership of the land and noted no taxpayer funds would be used for construction.

Supporters of the rink said the facility would provide critically needed activities for afterschool activities as well as provide a spot for concerts, trade shows, county fair events, Lost in the ‘50s, arts and crafts fairs, in-line skating, indoor soccer, and other activities.