Mountain View Ice Arena to house church

Vancouver’s Mountain View Ice Arena has been sold and will undergo improvements to accommodate a church. Some of the ice, however, will remain.

Mountain View Ice  Arena opened in 1998 and was the only operation with two national Hockey League-sized sheets of ice. Portland-based City Bible Church will take over a portion of the building, including one ice rink.

The 69,000-square-foot building was purchased for $4.8 million by Bruce Wood and Tom Kemper, who formed Kemfound LLC to acquire the building on behalf of the church.  The building is being leased to the church and it has an option to buy, which they will exercise in the future, said Wood, who is also a member of the church.

The church is subleasing to the rink’s management group operating as Mountain View Ice Arena LLC. Programs are expected to remain at existing levels.

City Bible Church has grown to include 5,000 members. In 2003, the church expanded to a second location in Tigard, which sparked an initiative to open locations throughout the region.

Wood said the church has been looking for a location in Vancouver for two years to accommodate its current Clark County membership of about 800.

The ice arena was chosen for its east Vancouver proximity and limited amount of modification required.

"It’s difficult to start from scratch in Vancouver," said Wood. "It takes a lot longer."

Improvements are expected to cost $3.2 million and will include an 800-seat auditorium, classrooms and a café/meeting area. The remaining rink will also receive upgrades and deferred maintenance, said Wood.

Bleachers that seat about 300 will remain and areas for concessions, locker rooms, skate rentals and reception will be added, said rink general manager Adam Muellner.

The rink has been operating at a loss since it opened, said  Wood, and the sale of the building is expected to mitigate the financial burden.

Muellner said the Evergreen Curling Club appears to be the only user loss, as they are expected to begin utilizing only the Lloyd Center rink in Portland.  All other users are expected to remain, including the Portland Winterhawks, Mountain View Speedskating and several junior organizations. And programs such as public skating, lessons and freestyle and stick time will continue.

Muellner said there is enough demand to keep the ice occupied 95 percent of the time from 5 a.m. to as late as midnight some days.

"There will not be a whole lot of downtime," said Muellner.

Muellner said five rinks have closed in the Northwest in the past two years, due to too few skaters and a lack of local support. Additionally, costs are high to participate in the sport and operate a rink. The amount of energy used to keep the ice cold and heat the building are significant. The sale of the building and downsizing to one sheet will reduce overhead expenses considerably, said Muellner.

He said the partnership with City Bible Church will benefit the rink, particularly since they have made a commitment to maintain and make improvements to the arena’s space, and its members become possible customers and advertisers at the rink.  The challenge will be in scheduling around large crowds at the church, said Muellner.

Both sheets of ice will be open through the end of the month and construction is expected to begin on the church’s space in July.  Wood said the remaining rink is not expected to shut down for any period of time. All six full-time staff and about 25 part-time and contract staff and instructors are expected to remain, added Muellner.

The church could hold its first service at the site by late fall this year.