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Wicker Park Ice Rink Plan has Hockey Dads, Skating Fans Excited

By Alisa Hauser | March 12, 2015 8:38am

WICKER PARK —  A group of volunteers say they are eager to bring an ice skating rink to Wicker Park's namesake park, which has a softball field, basketball courts, playground and a dog area.

"A rink would make Wicker Park a destination in the winter," said Nick Gecan, a local real estate agent and resident of the neighborhood since 1984. 

Gecan, who grew up playing ice hockey and was part of St. Ignatius High School's state championship team in 1964, was one of 11 people at a Wicker Park Advisory Council meeting in the park field house on Tuesday.

The special gathering in the park field house, 1425 N. Damen Ave., was held to see if enough folks could form a committee to take the reigns on bringing a rink to the park, just south of the CTA Blue Line Damen "L" stop.

Outside of a smattering of private ice rinks, there are just eight outdoor rinks in Chicago Park District parks.

The park's outfield, a proposed spot for the rink:


During the meeting (read the gathering's minutes here), Doug Wood, the treasurer of the advisory council, encouraged the group to brainstorm about vendors and to identify an area of the park that could accommodate a 135-foot-long by 65-foot-wide rink.

Finding funding, sponsors and getting approval from the Park District were at the top of the group's concerns.

Wood cited a long track record of collaboration the advisory council has had with the Park District, such as a written agreement for volunteers to maintain the park's gardens.

"We don't say to the Park District, 'We want you to buy us a bench.' We say, 'We want to do this and we will raise the money,' " Wood said.

Wood floated the idea of volunteers building the wood base of the rink at the same time as an annual fountain decorating social held in November.

Devin Poole, a Wicker Park resident, volunteered to create an online survey for gauging the community's interest in a rink.

After the meeting, Poole, originally from Upstate New York, said he grew up playing hockey. 

Poole's daughter will be turning 1 next month and "I would like to teach her to skate; a rink in the park would be a great thing."

Poole added, "Chicago is a hockey city."

Brian Culliton, a Wicker Park resident, was so determined to have a local rink for his two sons that he built a small rink in his backyard. 

Photo by Culliton:

Culliton, who has lived in Wicker Park since 1997, said his sons Ayden, 4, and Briden, 3, are learning to skate.

"The frustration with ice skating in the city where we live is the closest outdoor rink is a 25-minute drive at minimum," he said.

"I have realized that unless you invest a great deal in youth hockey programs it is extremely difficult to consistently teach and enjoy skating with your kids," he said. "An ice rink in Wicker Park would provide amazing opportunities for our neighborhood kids and long-term memories. It would really be a neighborhood rink and will bring excitement to the area during the long winter months."

The next meeting, open to the public and to anyone else that might want to get involved, is set for 7 p.m. April 14 in the field house. Questions can be directed to Wood via email.

On Wednesday, Park District officials did not respond to requests for comment on the plan, nor did Ald. Joe Moreno (1st).

Joey Sawicki (top row, from l.), Natalie Konieczko, Devin Poole, Park Supervisor Clare Rodriguez, Doug Wood, Nick Gecan.  Susan Fontana (bottom, from l.), Denise Browning, John Plant, Brian Culliton and Tony Brown.

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