Another full-scale ice rink and hockey facility could open in Columbus by fall 2019, and the project that would be a boon to the burgeoning local youth-hockey market.
Morten Haugland has plans to build a $12 million indoor rink and training facility near Interstate 270 and Sawmill Road. He is founder of Haugland Learning Center, a school for students with developmental disabilities, and the project he envisions would be just south of the school at 7690 New Market Center Way, which is off Billingsley Road.
Haugland, who hails from Norway, envisions a European-style hockey academy at the rink, where serious young athletes would combine academics with significant rink time during the day.
Haugland said fewer than 10 percent of Division I college scholarships for hockey are given to U.S.-born players, a percentage he would like to see increase over time.
The facility also would also serve Haugland Center students, along with girls teams, a hockey program for inner-city youths and "wounded warrior" sled hockey.
Youth leagues that are struggling to find rink time in Columbus would be a target, as well, he said.
"This ... idea started about two-and-a-half years ago as I was driving one of my kids to a hockey rink," Haugland said. "My wife and I joked that we should just build a rink next to our school."
He said he has some funding in place, but still is working with groups he declined to name that might become partners in the effort.
Haugland said he also is considering selling naming rights to the facility to a private business and is exploring potential public incentives that could benefit the project.
Jason Richeson, president of the Capital Amateur Hockey Association, one of several leagues in Columbus, said he was aware of Haugland's proposal and thinks there would be plenty of demand. His group currently uses the Chiller rinks in Dublin and Lewis Center, along with the seasonal rink at the Ohio State Fairgrounds coliseum where the Columbus Chill hockey team played in the 1990s.
"Lack of ice is the biggest barrier that we have as an association right now," Richeson said. "Interest ebbs and flows with how well the Columbus Blue Jackets and OSU hockey are playing. ... They've both been doing well, so we've seen a surge in interest. This year, we had to wait-list the most kids we've ever had to, with lack of ice being a primary reason."
Haugland is working with Paul Garland of Columbus architecture firm Legat Architects on the facility's design.