Pickerington hockey group partners with Phoenix developer Lee Ploszaj for potential mixed-use project

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Center Ice Foundation of Central Ohio

A nonprofit group wanting to bring an indoor hockey facility to Pickerington plans to partner with a private developer to roll an athletics complex into a project that could include restaurants, retail shops and a hotel. 

Noting there are no ice rinks south of I-70 in central Ohio, a group of hockey parents in January 2019 formed the Center Ice Foundation of Central Ohio with the goal of raising $8 million to build an indoor hockey facility in Pickerington.

The effort was supported by Pickerington City Council and Mayor Lee Gray, who in June 2019 finalized a deal to set aside 8 acres for a facility to be built on undeveloped land at 1111 and 1113 Gray Drive. 

Since then, the CIFCO has faced challenges to raising the money needed for the project, including the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that significantly scuttled fundraising at public events and staging tournaments.

On Jan. 15, Bob McElheney, executive vice president of the CIFCO, declined to say how much the group had raised, but organization officials noted last July they had around $100,000 of the $8 million projected to be needed. 

Within the past two months, however, the Center Ice Foundation’s plans have taken a turn that its members hope will springboard the initiative. 

Through tournament play, members of the foundation met Lee Ploszaj, a hockey parent who also is president of Community Center Partners LLC, a Phoenix-based development company. 

Ploszaj became interested in the foundation’s plans and decided to partner with the group. 

Although plans still are preliminary, the foundation has shifted gears from raising money to build a facility to raising money that would be contributed to CCP’s pre-development work to locate a site for a mixed-use project featuring an ice rink and possible commercial businesses. The groups are looking in Pickerington, Violet Township and Canal Winchester. 

“I was introduced to the group through a common denominator of hockey,” Ploszaj said. “Being a hockey dad myself, I understand what communities look for in facility needs. This is a regional vision. If something gets built, it has a regional benefit to the community.” 

McEleheny said a decision on a site hasn't been made, but targets include undeveloped land along the U.S. Route 33 corridor. 

He added the project – which could include indoor and outdoor facilities for other sports, as well as retail shops, restaurants and a hotel – could be built on 75 to 100 acres for an estimated cost of about $150 million. 

“CCP is bringing the expertise in the development area,” McElheney said. “We’re looking, at a minimum, of two full ice sheets. We’re also looking at facilities for a number of sports, including soccer, baseball, lacrosse, volleyball and football. 

“We’re looking at, potentially, indoor and outdoor facilities. We’re in an area that is underserved in youth sports facilities.” 

McElheney said the partnership would bring more financial leverage to the table because it would be backed by a private developer. 

He also hopes it would yield a greater economic-development impact to the area by being multi-faceted. 

“We want to make sure this is a facility for all, but also that it’s a destination for the region,” McElheney said. 

Over the next six months, Ploszaj said, CCP will work to develop a market study to determine the size and scope of a financially viable project. The company also will look to capture financing resources. 

“It’s not just building an ice rink and hoping they show up and start skating,” he said. “We get into how these sports and recreation assets generate economic impact for the community. 

“These assets have to stand on their own. They have to be financially viable or they don’t get financed.” 

CCP’s vision, Ploszaj said, is to build a project that could host regional, national and possibly international tournaments and offer recreational opportunities for adults. 

He said the project’s other tenants – businesses such as bars and restaurants, clothing shops and a hotel – would “play off each other.” 

If the feasibility study, which Ploszaj said is being funded by CCP, shows a project can be done, the company will work with local governments and landowners to hone in on a potential site and zoning issues related to construction. 

The company also will seek to recruit potential tenants and begin design and other pre-construction work.   

“From the point a feasibility study concludes, the next step is pre-construction planning, which takes about six months,” Ploszaj said. “Then we have an 18-month construction period. Probably about two and a half years from today would be a groundbreaking.” 

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

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