While construction delays are always possible, it appears a late arrival of winter will be the main factor keeping hockey enthusiasts from enjoying a new rink in Libertyville.
Groundbreaking is tentatively set for Aug. 1 for a lighted rink at the Libertyville Sports Complex to replace one at the former Bolander Park. Bolander was decommissioned in 2015 when the village sold the 5.3-acre property for development.
More than two years into the process, the village board last week unanimously approved a bid of $374,000 from Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. of Ingleside to build the replacement facility west of the complex's softball field. Construction is expected to take about three months.
The asphalt surface will be available for inline skating, roller hockey or other activities during warm weather months and ice hockey when weather permits. Other potential programs will be developed.
"We are ecstatic we've come to this point," Scott Nelson, representing Friends of Libertyville Outdoor Hockey, told the board before the vote. "I know it's been a long process and there have been some trying times."
Village trustees in 2012 decided to shed the cost to repair and maintain the Bolander facilities, chiefly a former construction company office used as the parks department headquarters as well as the all-purpose hockey rink. After an initial sale stalled, the facilities and grounds were sold in early 2015 for $2.05 million.
Ice hockey enthusiasts bemoaned the loss of the rink and began working with the village on a replacement.
Village Trustee Rich Moras has served on the board's parks and recreation committee, which has been shepherding the project, for the entire process. Moras, who also chairs the board's finance committee, said the decision to sell was "very difficult" but came with a promise.
"We had a real commitment not to lose the amenities that were provided there," he said.
A preferred scenario would have been to keep the park and upgrade the facilities, he added, but that was not possible.
"The fiscal responsibilities and realities we faced just didn't allow for that," he said.
Building a hockey rink at Adler or Butler Lake parks was considered, but the sports complex was determined to be the most feasible. The original estimate was $250,000.
"I'm not sure we had a good idea what the initial budget really should have been because we don't make a lot of hockey rinks," Moras said.
The 2017-18 village budget includes $450,000 for project costs to be covered with proceeds from the Bolander sale. The boards and light poles from Bolander were saved and will be reused on the new rink.
Trustee Pete Garrity told Nelson he was a "bit disappointed" the group didn't have "more significant skin in the game" regarding the rink. The group has said it would help with maintenance.
"We're expecting continuing support and activity to help us mitigate the cost associated with running this thing going forward," Garrity said.