MORGAN PARK — Ice is proving to be hot commodity in Morgan Park, as hockey teams are lining up to reserve time at a new indoor ice rink and gymnastics facility.
The Morgan Park Sports Center at 11505 S. Western Ave. won't open until late July but already three hockey teams are negotiating with the Chicago Park District to lockdown ice times for the coveted Sept. 1-March 31 season.
Mount Carmel High School, Marist High School and the St. Jude Knights Hockey Club are all expected to sign deals with the park district in the coming days, according to coaches and park district officials.
"Since Mayor Emanuel and other officials broke ground on the project last summer, the completion of the Morgan Park Sports Center has been highly anticipated," said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a park district spokeswoman.
Mount Carmel is looking for 9 hours of ice time per week during the hockey season. Marist wants 10 hours a week at the new rink.
Howard Ludwig says there's a lot of interest in the facility:
Both squads would use the Morgan Park Sports Center as their home ice, relying exclusively on the facility for both home games and practice on the varsity and junior varsity levels.
St. Jude would be the biggest user of the new rink under the proposed deals. The 55-year-old youth hockey program wants 18 hours of ice per week. The club currently relies on southwest suburban ice rinks to train skaters, including the Oak Lawn Ice Arena and Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood.
Despite the strong demand from the hockey clubs, Maxey-Faulkner said there will still be time set aside for open skating, figure skating, men's hockey leagues and other uses of the indoor ice rink.
Marist Hockey Coach Chuck Peters is excited to have his RedHawks practicing just 2 miles from the school's Mount Greenwood campus. The team currently plays 14 miles away at the Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park.
"Being that close to the school and the neighborhood, we will see more students at the game," Peters said.
He's also eager to share the ice with St. Jude. Peters estimates about 70 percent of his players have skated with the youth program. Perhaps by sharing the ice with the Knights, Marist will be able to attract more players to its hockey club and to the Catholic school.
Mount Carmel Coach Craig Ferguson was also eager to sign on with the new rink. His Caravan squad plays and practices at the Homewood-Flossmoor Ice Arena. The team also skates at the Arctic Ice Arena and Southwest.
Having a dedicated rink for the team will be a big improvement and being located within city limits should get many of the players home in time for dinner with their families and provide added opportunity to finish homework, Ferguson said.
"It's a huge advantage for us," he said.
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