Ice’s departure raises questions about Pan Am Plaza

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The sudden announcement Sunday that the Indiana Ice will depart the Pan Am Plaza ice skating facility after their season ends this month has raised questions about the downtown site’s future.

Officials for Indianapolis-based Kite Realty Group Trust, which owns the Pan Am Plaza and adjacent ice rinks, have plans for a mixed-use development on that site that include a high-rise hotel, restaurants, and retail and residential space.

No time line for the Pan Am Plaza project has been announced. Last year, the Indiana World Skating Academy, which had managed the facility, moved out in part due to the complex's uncertain future.

In April 2013, the Ice signed a deal with Kite to manage the ice rinks and play most of its home games there, with a renovation of the facility set for last offseason.

The Ice play in the United States Hockey League, a top-tier amateur league for players 20 and younger. Over the past two seasons, the team has split home games between Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Pan Am Plaza.

“Bankers Life Fieldhouse is a beautiful, multi-purpose arena and home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, but based on its annual calendar of events, it does not allow for a full home schedule of 30 dates that meets the parameters of a USHL schedule,” said USHL Commissioner Skip Prince in a prepared statement issued Sunday. "The Ice and the league schedulers have for the past two seasons placed a number of games at Pan Am Plaza, but notwithstanding of that building’s history and location, it does not comply with league standards.”

Local officials bidding for the 2018 Super Bowl had hoped to announce a new downtown hotel in time to land the big game, and local hospitality and real estate officials acknowledged the Pan Am location, less than a quarter-mile from the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, is the most likely site.

The full-block plaza is on the southwest corner of Georgia and Illinois streets, and the skating rinks occupy the northeast corner.

If the local host committee were to announce a new downtown hotel, it would be a big boost in its efforts to wrestle the 2018 Super Bowl from Minneapolis and New Orleans, the other two bid finalists.

Following the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, several NFL owners and sponsors complained that downtown lacked upscale hotel rooms.

Hospitality officials recently said that, to get a hotel built in time for the 2018 Super Bowl, time is of the essence, with planning and construction likely taking close to three years.

Officials for the city’s 2018 Super Bowl bid committee are staying mum, declining to comment on any aspect of the bid until a media availability May 7—the date final written bids are due to the 32 NFL owners.

Officials for the Ice and Kite did not return calls seeking comment Monday morning.

Each 2018 Super Bowl bid committee will send a contingent to Atlanta to make an oral presentation to NFL team owners May 20. A vote and an announcement of the winner are expected the same day.

The future of the Ice, a top-tier amateur team that plays in the USHL, is as unclear as that of the Pan Am Plaza site.

Local business owner Jim Hallett, and his son, Sean, launched a minor-league professional team, the Indy Fuel, in November, and some sports marketers have wondered if there’s enough room in Indianapolis for both teams.

The Fuel, a member of the ECHL, signed a long-term deal to play at the renovated Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, the former home of the Ice. In April, the Fuel announced they had become an official affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Fuel’s first season starts in October.

Officials for the Pacers on Monday said they didn't have any information on the Ice's future. USHL's Prince said Ice officials would spend the next year looking for a new home venue.

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