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Hamilton Center receives $400,000 more than expected for upgrades

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Hamilton Center Ice Arena’s campaign to raise $1 million in private donations for an interior remodel exceeded its goal by $400,000.

All of the $1.4 million is being poured into the renovation effort, which includes updating the entrance, refurbishing the main ice rink, restrooms and locker rooms, and transforming the lobby into a new community room.

The goal has been to convert Hamilton Center back into a community center and meeting place, something it hasn’t been for years, said Mark Jones, Columbus Parks and Recreation Department director.

Converting the interior into a multiuse facility struck a chord with donors who liked the idea of Hamilton expanding beyond just an ice rink, said April Williams, who works in project and resource development at the Columbus Parks Foundation.

“When we started building our case about making this more of an option for a community center and rental space, we really just saw an outpouring of support from the community outside of just special interests, outside of hockey and figure skating,” Williams said.

“We just have such a generous and dedicated community that wants to see quality of life enhanced. This is a unique facility. This is something very special here,” she said. “We have pride in this facility.”

The renovation, which is expected to be completed in the next few months, is the first time the interior has been refurbished since 1974. The rinks were enclosed then with a design by architect William D. Koster, meant to match architect Harry Weese’s original look, according to historical documents from the parks department.

In this year’s renovation, much of the original design has been preserved or replicated with the upgrades, such as sprucing up the original lighting fixtures to stay true to the architect’s vision.

Parks officials focused on making the interior renovations true to the look the center had when it opened in 1958, Williams said.

Hamilton Center Ice Arena was designed by Weese to replicate a Swiss chalet and featured two open-air ice rinks. It is unique because of its architectural design, compared with other ice rinks, said Carleen Fry, Hamilton Center program coordinator.

“Most rinks are just a building with a tin roof and not used for anything but skating,” she said. “Hamilton Center is very unique with its chalet style with a fireplace and can serve as a community center.”

The facility is one of about six indoor ice rinks in southern Indiana that are open year-round, Jones said.

The city of Columbus has invested nearly $2 million in infrastructure improvements at Hamilton Center, including $1 million for a new roof. The city also paid for restroom renovations, electrical upgrades, and window and door replacements.

Some finishing touches need to be completed for an anticipated grand reopening for Hamilton Center this fall. Jones said there are light fixtures to be installed, commemorative plaques to be hung and interior window covers to be put in place.

The additional $400,000 will be used to paint parts of the ice rink and restore wood surfaces there, Jones said.

The fundraising campaign already has paid for new carpeting and flooring, a new pro shop and a renovated events room that features a skylight. New restroom and shower facilities are also a part of the renovation of the nearly 40,000-square-foot facility.

The ice rink itself had a facelift with new dasher boards, a new air conditioning system and new insulation, he said.

Eric Neal and former Cummins chairman and chief executive officer Jim Henderson led the campaign through the Columbus Parks Foundation to encourage private donations for the renovation.

Donors contributed amounts ranging from $100 to $150,000. Those who contributed $5,000 or more will have their names placed on a granite wall plaque placed in the center’s middle waiting room, also known as the Fireside Room.

Those who contributed $1,000 or more will have their names on a special Columbus Parks foundation tree plaque in the ice arena, Williams said.

The renovated ice facility already has caught the eye of visitors and is generating interest among those looking for ice time and those wanting a different place for a meeting or family gathering.

The new community room with new audio and video equipment will be used by groups including Cummins, the Parks Foundation, graduation parties and birthday parties, all of which have expressed interest in booking parts of the new Hamilton Center, Jones said.

He expects rentals at the facility to be consistently booked for some time, now that the community room can open up into the lobby.

The new community room, also known as the Clementine Miller Tangeman Room, holds about 45 people and is available to rent on weekdays for $50 for three hours, $100 for all day, $120 for evening events after 5 p.m. and $2,000 for five hours on weekends.

Neal, who loves being on the ice himself, is a volunteer hockey coach at the Hamilton Center and noticed more interest in the facility with the new look and features.

“My team this year that I just recruited last week probably has about 30 percent out-of-town people coming in now. This is definitely an attraction in that recruitment,” he said. “We’re getting kids down from other parts of the region that are all coming in here. I think the renovations that we’ve done are a big part of that.”

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