A state-of-the-art ice rink complex proposed by the company that operates the NHL's Anaheim Ducks was approved by the Irvine City Council on Tuesday night for the western part of the Great Park.
The council voted 4-0 in favor of the project, pending an environmental review.
H&S Ventures plans to build and operate the rink complex under the umbrella of the nonprofit Irvine Ice Foundation to promote youth hockey and other ice sports. A $25 million commitment from Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli would launch construction. Groundbreaking is planned for late 2016; the facility is expected to open in early 2018.
The 270,000-square-foot complex on 13 acres would feature four ice rinks for community use – three NHL-size rinks and one larger Olympic-size rink. The primary rink would include seating for 2,500 spectators. The plan includes administrative offices, dressing rooms, training facilities, retail space and concessions.
The city plans to lease the land to the foundation for $1 per year in an initial 35-year agreement. With three five-year extensions added to the contract, the facility could be operated by the nonprofit for up to 50 years, after which ownership would be turned over to the city of Irvine.
"This is an exciting proposal for the community," Mayor Steven Choi said.
The development represents a step forward for the Great Park after a period marked by slow progress and questions about financial management.
"I think this is something that the public wants, the residents want, and it's a great opportunity not just for hockey but for families to enjoy," said Jeff Alexander, an English teacher and hockey coach at Woodbridge High School in Irvine. He attended the meeting with several of his team's players wearing their red jerseys.
Alexander said his team has to travel to Anaheim at awkward times of the morning and night to get precious ice time. He said the new, centrally located facility would be a big boost for the sport in Orange County.
"Not just hockey and ice skating but other recreational opportunities," Alexander said. "Figure skating, curling, those types of things. I think it will be one of the premier ice facilities in the nation."
The Ducks could use the Irvine facility for occasional training sessions.
The lease deal calls for the management company to incur all building and operational costs, including facility maintenance and repairs, with the city responsible for infrastructure including electrical, gas, sewer, water and off-street parking.
The council plans to ratify the lease agreement once the environmental study is completed.