In hockey, common battle cries are "one shift at a time" and "one game at a time."

CORRECTION: Through that fundraiser, the foundation hopes to receive roughly 25 artificial trees by Nov. 30 that are approximately 3 to 4 feet in height and decorated with a theme. Because of an editing error, the print and earlier online version of this story gave an incorrect dimension.

In hockey, common battle cries are "one shift at a time" and "one game at a time."

For the Center Ice Foundation of Central Ohio, the task of raising $8 million to bring an indoor facility with two regulation-sized ice rinks to Pickerington has been more like "one skate in front of the other."

When Violet Township officials didn't include an ice rink in plans for a $46 million community center -- a project that ultimately was soundly rejected by 82% of voters in May -- a group of parents formed the foundation with hopes of getting a hockey facility built by raising money privately.

Since then, the fledgling fundraisers have struck a deal through which the city of Pickerington has set aside 8 acres for such a project on undeveloped land at 1111 and 1113 Gray Drive.

And fundraising efforts have resulted in $100,000 in donations.

On Nov. 6, the group took its next step by gaining federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. It exempts donations from being taxed and, according to foundation founder and president Kirstin Watts, gives the group greater credibility and allows it to seek financial grants.

"I think that will make the donor conversations a little easier," Watts said. "Now, we're actually able to apply for grants. We're very excited for 2020."

In addition to building a strategy for soliciting larger donations, including corporate gifts, foundation leaders are continuing to hold fundraisers.

The foundation held a six-division tournament in April, an Ohio State football game watch-party fundraiser in October and plans to enter a float in the Nov. 23 Lancaster Christmas Parade.

It's also kicking off a Christmas tree silent auction with the local Scramblers (formerly Scrambler Marie's) restaurant.

Through that fundraiser, the foundation hopes to receive roughly 25 artificial trees by Nov. 30 that are approximately 3 to 4 feet in height and decorated with a theme.

The trees will be displayed at the restaurant, 1219 Hill Road North, Pickerington. They'll be auctioned during bidding that will take place Dec. 1-14. All proceeds from the auction will go to the Center Ice Foundation's effort to build a local indoor ice-rink facility.

Information about the auction and a Dec. 14 Rudolph Run 5K are available on the foundation's Facebook page and website, centericefoundationoh .org.

Watts said the foundation also would unveil a new promotion on its Facebook page the night of Thanksgiving, Nov. 28.

"We're going to have a promotional video released Thanksgiving night," she said. "We've had a production company that's been working on it."

Throughout its campaign, the foundation has touted the need for indoor ice facilities in Pickerington, noting the 11 sheets of ice OhioHealth Chiller manages in central Ohio are all located north of Interstate 70.

Watts said that results in considerable travel and expense for hockey parents and players -- including adult players -- who must drive from places such as Pickerington, Canal Winchester and Grove City to Chiller locations in Dublin, Easton and Lewis Center.

Additionally, Watts said, the indoor facility would be funded completely without taxpayer dollars, and could provide rinks for other activities such as figure skating and open skates, while bringing visitors and consumers to the community.

Those are among the reasons Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray said he supported reserving land for the project until at least Sept. 1, 2021. The deadline gives the foundation at least 22 more months to reach its goal.

"There's really no facility on the south or east sides for hockey," Gray said. "I think it would add value to Pickerington because people here would be able to use it and it would also bring people into the community to shop at local businesses.

"We had been looking for ways to promote (an indoor ice facility) without using tax dollars. If they have success, I believe it will benefit our residents and our community."

The foundation's plan is to pay for the project's construction through fundraising, then turn its ongoing operation and maintenance over to third party.

"Our project will use zero tax dollars ever," Watts said. "We're never going to ask for a tax increase, either for the building or operation of this project."

Watts said the foundation isn't discouraged by the campaign recently launched by a residents group called the Pickerington Community Turf Project, which seeks to raise $2.25 million to have synthetic-turf fields installed at both Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North.

"It's great for our community to have people willing to donate their time, efforts and passion," Watts said. "My hope is that in 2020 we find ways to help each other.

"The success of both projects will make Pickerington better."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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