EDINA, Minn. - The Edina skating world is on edge. Two successful skating groups are pitted against each other for ice time at the city's Braemar Arena.
The Edina Hockey Association (EHA) with its 1,323 members is feeling frozen out of their home arena because the 128 member Braemar City of Lakes Figure Skating Club (BCLFSC) has its own ice time needs. Braemar, with its three ice surfaces, is the only recreation facility in Edina with no "user priority access agreement."
Both skating groups pay rent. The BCLFSC skates at one of the three rinks. The EHA uses the other two. The EHA argues that they need more ice time and should get it because their group is ten times the size of the figure skaters and, proportionately, more of their members are Edina residents than the BCLFSC.
"It is very challenging," said Susan Miller, General Manager of Braemar Arena. "We have one of the largest hockey associations in the nation here and our Braemar City of Lakes Figure Skating Club is a very prominent program that has a very successful team and very successful participants."
EHA sees the question as one of fairness. "It is just an issue of equality and allowing the kids to use the facility the same amount of time," said Joseph Hulbert, Hockey parent and EHA Board Member. "If you add all the kids up, I think the number is 1.79 hours per week at Braemar. Should be an equal amount of (ice) time for all the kids to have at Braemar. If you did that, it would definitely cut into the figure skating time."
"Basically, Edina Hockey would like for us to give up some ice time to help them out," said Kathleen Gazich, Professional Skating champion and BCLFSC Coach. "The problem is that even if we were to give every piece of ice that Braemar Figure Skating Club has, Edina Hockey still would not have enough ice in this arena to cover all their programs."
The Edina Parks and Rec Department presented a plan to the city council Tuesday night. However the council decided to give the two skating groups two weeks to come up with a compromise solution on their own.
"The figure skating club is really willing to work to help solve the problem," said Gazich.
"We are willing to try to find some compromise," agreed Hulbert, "but the fact is that we are at a point here now where they (figure skaters) have all their hours at Braemar and we (hockey) have such a small percentage. It seems like it is a conversation that has been long overdue."
Although the BCLFSC is predominantly female, the EHA insists the dispute is not about gender. There are now 350 girls in the EHA membership. Hulbert said that the dramatic rise in female participation is a good problem to have.
"We need more ice time now than we did 10 years ago because of the growth of the girls' side of the sport," said Hulbert. "Nobody is trying to kick the figure skating club out, but what we are trying to do is find an equal utilization of the time per participant."