Save Riverview Ice House & Downtown Rockford Sports Tourism

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The supporters of this Petition are united in our advocacy to save Riverview Ice House from closure and maintain the UW Health Sports Factory as a sports tournament destination.

We are a grassroots group of Rockford taxpayers, regional citizens and supporters of Riverview IceHouse, the Rockford Park District and Downtown Rockford. We are hockey players and skaters, business owners and employees, elected officials and non-profit leaders, clergy and congregation members, downtown workers and other stakeholders from across the region. We are united by sporting, cultural, economic and emotional connections with Riverview Ice House and Downtown Rockford that span decades.

Our common interest in the overall health of our community drives our goal of building and sustaining a healthy urban core and balanced growth and development throughout our region. We know that successful communities and regions across our nation have vibrant, diverse and prosperous downtowns.

We feel abandoned and betrayed by the Rockford Park District, which has announced recommendations to close the Riverview Ice House, sell the land for private development, and move all local ice operations to Loves Park – as well as threatening to end programming for downtown’s UW Health Sports Factory as a tournament destination.

We are shocked and disappointed. Park District staff cast aside prior recommendations of its Ice Facilities Committee; cast aside commitments to engage the community; and cast aside the spirit of regional collaboration that was the hallmark of successful partnerships such as Reclaiming First that lead to the development of U.W. Health Sports Factory in downtown Rockford and the Mercyhealth Sportscore Two facility in Loves Park. This is unacceptable.

We provide the following summary of critical implications that have not been fully understood or addressed by the Park District in making this decision:

Economic Impact. Abandoning the Riverview Ice House contradicts a strategic imperative to re-invest in historically neglected and racially diverse areas of the region. That commitment started in 1976 when the Riverview Ice House first opened and continued with exceptional force over the last 15 years. Since 2005, hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private money have been invested in Rockford’s urban core. 

Social Justice. Closing Riverview Ice House and abandoning downtown sports tourism at the UW Health Sports Factory represent substantial departures from economic and social commitments, especially for those most in need. Decisions related to sports tourism assets need to be made and measured as socially and economically unique elements. These decisions should not be tallied against the decision to keep open or invest in a neighborhood park or community recreation center. The urban core deserves sports tourism assets just like the region’s more prosperous east side.

Taxpayer Fairness. Approximately 70% of Rockford Park District property taxes are paid by Rockford citizens. Rockford also pays a significantly larger share of user fees for Park District facilities. Moreover, the majority of the Reclaiming First Hotel/Motel tax generated by the City of Rockford was pledged to Sportscore Two in Loves Park. 

Financial Accuracy. We request an opportunity to re-engage with the Park District to fully understand the capital costs and operating subsidies. We want to be a supportive partner in recommending operating solutions for the Park District, but we need accurate and specific information to do so. 

Political Implications. We believe that our region benefits through collaborative planning that supports shared prosperity. These Park District staff recommendations fly in the face of shared values of collaboration. 

Chicago Blackhawks Affiliation. We fear these decisions could jeopardize our community's critical relationship with the Chicago Blackhawks - on which the future of BMO Harris Bank Center surely depends. 

Legal Implications. We fear that the Park District’s staff recommendation could expose the Rockford Park District and other stakeholders to legal action by bond purchasers and others who rely on the Riverview Ice House and U.W. Health Sports Factory as tourism related operations for jobs, hotel stays, revenue and opportunity, including historically disadvantaged communities of color.

The supporters of this Petition urge Park District Commissioners to maintain Riverview Ice House and maintain programming of the UW Health Sports Factory as a sports tourism destination. 
 
We further urge Park District Commissioners to direct Park District staff to Reconvene the Ice Facilities Committee, Engage the broader community and work toward a collaborative solution that saves Riverview Ice House and the U.W. Health Sports Factory as tourism destinations and supports the best interests of all stakeholders.

Riverview Ice House has been home to literally millions of wonderful memories since the Rockford Park District wisely built it downtown in 1976. Please help us assure many millions more memories will be created there for years and decades to come, while providing equal access to ice facilities to all citizens.

PLEASE sign our petition and help our grassroots group assure that OUR downtown ice stays where it’s most needed.