Ducks close in on approval for four Great Park ice rinks, team training facility

By Sarah de Crescenzo, Orange County Register

IRVINE – Grand, unrealized plans are the hallmark of the beleaguered Orange County Great Park.

But one of those long-debated proposals – the construction of a 270,000-square foot public ice facility and Anaheim Ducks training center, in a region where interest in ice-based sports is growing – might soon become reality.

On Tuesday, the Irvine City Council will consider a proposal by the Ducks to, via a new nonprofit organization, erect a community ice complex with four rinks at the Great Park. Councilman Jeff Lalloway said it will cost $30 million to $40 million to build and, according to city staffers, would be one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

After the lease expires, up to 50 years after the building is constructed, the facility would become city property for $10.

City staff have recommended the council approve the lease under the condition that H&S Ventures, the company that manages the club owned by Henry and Susan Samueli, hire a consultant to study the environmental impacts of the facility because of its bigger-than-expected footprint.

Ten years after the city was given the land for the Great Park, roads and infrastructure necessary for the rink are finally being built, ending years of waiting on behalf of the Ducks, who have a growing high school hockey league.

“For years, no one had confidence that there was going to be a Great Park,” Lalloway said. “I think it’s important that a regional icon like the Ducks has determined we’re moving forward with the park. That’s really exciting.”

With four sheets of ice on about 13.5 acres in the western portion of the park, the complex would ease competition for rink space in Orange County for amateur players.

“We’re absolutely jam-packed in all of our rinks in Orange County and in the L.A. area,” said Michael Schulman, the Ducks’ chief executive officer. “The sport is growing, but it’s limited by how many ice rinks there are.”

The Ducks would train there when the club’s primary practice space, Honda Center, is otherwise occupied.

The club’s interest in building rinks at the Great Park dates to 2005, when developer Lennar bought the bulk of the El Toro land from the federal government. Lennar then gave it to the city for a major metropolitan park in exchange for the right to build commercial and residential developments around the park.

The council first authorized negotiations between H&S Ventures and the city in January 2011.

But when no infrastructure or roads materialized in the area under consideration, the plan was put on hold. Now, construction at the park has picked up, and portions of the 175-acre Sports Park – a section of the 688 acres of the Great Park being brought online for the city by developer FivePoint Communities – is set to open by the end of 2016.

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