Despite a recent 30 day reprieve, the closure of the Chaparral Ice rink of I-35 still looms large over the Austin hockey community. Among adult league players and parents of youth players, rumors have swirled about the construction of a new rink, to be built by the Austin Hockey Group. To dispel any incorrect rumors and get the facts straight and out in public, 100 Degree Hockey interviewed the president of the Austin Hockey Group, Corky Brown.
Austin Hockey Group President Corky Brown is very clear on the goal of his organization.
“The Austin Hockey Group was created with the knowledge that Chaparral on I-35 was going to be sold,” says Brown. “Our goal is to pursue building a dual sheet facility to keep ice sports alive here in Austin, and we are working toward those means and are very close to finalizing a deal.”
Corky Brown is not a newcomer to hockey in general or in Austin. He played for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints from 1988 to 1990. After his playing career was over, Brown moved on to coaching, becoming a master level coach for USA hockey and coaching instructor for the Central Texas region. He is Executive Director of the Austin Youth Hockey Foundation and coaches the America’s Showcase High School All-Star team in Pittsburgh, PA, yearly. In addition, he has 49 goals and 76 assists in just 87 games played in Austin’s amateur league. The credentials are there.
For Brown, growing up around the rink meant a sense of community and togetherness through hockey. The Austin Hockey Group hopes to accomplish that with their new rink.
“From a business perspective, there is a huge opportunity for us to do everything from grow the community, to the marketing, to the integration with the community. Most places [around the country], the rink becomes a social location, a destination location.”
Original plans by the group to buy Chaparral Ice eventually failed, leading them to look for a location for a new rink in Austin. Despite some rumors to the contrary, they have not changed their mind on this point.
“We did a demographic study for the ice sports community, and 85% of our constituents live within 10 miles of a location in [the area of 1431 and Parmer]. Cedar Park seems like a natural fit because the Texas Stars are located there, but part of that is driven by that’s where the current customer base is located.”
The ultimate goal is to create facility similar to the Dr Pepper Stars Centers in the DFW area. Inclusion of facilities such as a bar, concessions or a restaurant really depend on how much the group can do with the money they have available to spend. “[The most important thing] is not the construction of the building, but the culture in which people feel like they want to be there.”
The biggest question for most local players and parents is the expected opening date. Brown and the group are targeting a Fall 2012 opening. “As of today, it can still happen. If [finalizing the deal to get the project off the ground] lingers too much longer, then every day it’s put in jeopardy,” said Brown. He added that given the number of permits and other administrative concerns, “Even if we had the deal done today, I wouldn’t know when we would break ground.”
In the interim, many adult players have joined the newly formed Austin Hockey Club with games to be played at the Cedar Park Center. The newest schedule of games at the rink will begin next week. The top tier amateur league has already played in the facility since ice was put down this fall.
“The reason we have an adult league at CPC is an attempt to pay forward and keep sustainability going for a future rink. A lot of people misconstrue us putting together this league at the CPC as a way to shutter Chaparral. What people may not realize is that in running the travel program, I work with[Chaparral Ice employees] Angie [Schneider Vaught] and Jason [Mauer] on a daily basis. Our goal in doing this is to keep sustainability because we know at some point Chaparral is going away at some point.”
While the Texas Stars are not in any way partnered with the group in their pursuit of building a rink in Austin, “The Stars and [Stars president and CPC GM] Rick McLaughlin have been incredibly gracious (in the process of setting up the CPC league).” The Stars clearly recognize the importance of keeping hockey alive and well in Austin.
Brown believes that is the goal of everything that his group is working on.
“In a nutshell, our goal in this is to keep ice sports alive and well in the Austin area.”