Jacksonville Roller Hockey League Seeking Funding to Repair Olson Roller Hockey Rink in Nichols Park

By Benjamin Cox on October 19, 2020 at 5:45pm

The Jacksonville Roller Hockey League is attempting to raise support to rehabilitate the Eric Olson Memorial Roller Hockey Rink at Nichols Park. The rink was installed 17 years ago after the Olson Family, community partners, private donations and the League came together to install the rink, which has now fallen into severe disrepair.

Jeff Olson, Eric’s brother and an engineer with Hutchison Engineering, first asked the Jacksonville Parks & Lakes Committee for an opportunity to receive city funds to rehab the rink’s dasher boards and surface in February.

Tina Hungerford, current President of the Roller Hockey League told the Jacksonville City Council last Mondy that current registration fees for sessions have simply been providing funds for temporary fixes to the rink: “We just have been band-aiding the rink as best as we can. If you look at pictures of the rink, you will see there are huge – and when I say ‘huge’ that really is an understatement – giant cracks in the asphalt in the rink that we have gone to Home Depot and bought patch to fill those cracks in. Those cracks are just getting deeper and deeper, and they are getting to a point where we are not going to be able to really patch them anymore. We’ve been working over the last year on different ideas and things we can do as fundraisers or things that we could purchase towards a fundraising goal.”

Dark and light patches of asphalt can be seen peppered all over the rink were the league has patched large cracks on the 17-year old surface at the Olson Memorial Rink.

Olson says that the rink is now beyond its service life all the way around: “There is just 3 inches of asphalt out there, and that 3 inches is starting to pull apart in many locations. We have been using it regularly for 17 years on that kind of pavement, when it’s supposed to be not a roadway surface. This is for hockey sticks, roller blades, and things like that. The cracks are just exceptionally large and almost put the rink in an unsafe condition for use. The dasher boards that we have, which are the boards around the perimeter of the facility, we bought them used, so they already had a full service life on them before they even came to Jacksonville. They are in really bad disrepair due to mainly UV light damage. We certainly can’t take a puck out there or even a ball. If someone even got a good slap shot off, right through them. It would just shatter. They are just passed their service life at this point.”

Olson says that it would take an investment of $80,000-$100,000 to install a new surface. Olson presented the board with a tiled snap-lock hard surface court at last Monday’s city council meeting saying that many local parks in the region are moving towards that type of surface for roller hockey and other activities in outdoor parks. He says the surface would be expected to have a 15-20 year life cycle of use before a new repair would be needed. He says the brand new tile surface would cost approximately $45,000-$65,000.

Hungerford says that the current league serves about approximately 60 kids per session. She says that with a new facility, they would likely court more people to Jacksonville, and possibly host a tournament with other towns or cities: “We really want to host, and we really feel like we could host something like [a tournament] if we had the facilities for it. It’s a dream.”

Olson says that a set of used dasher boards would have to be purchased from an indoor facility, and could be purchased at approximately $15,000. Hungerford says that the league has recently earned 501(C)3 status and has raised only about $7,400 in recent years and is currently pursuing multiple avenues for grants and loans as a now non-profit organization.

The City of Jacksonville is currently mulling donating $50,000 of interest from the Goveia Family Trust, a trust fund set up to encourage the maintenance and usage of recreational facilities in the city. The Hockey League is expected to present a more itemized proposal to the city council and the committee within the next month.