Community Pushes Back on Chavez Center Ice Rink Conversion


Noah Shandler, Author

Santa Fe community members, including several Santa Fe High school students, gave public comments at the Feb. 8 City Council meeting challenging Mayor Alan Webber’s plan to temporarily convert the Genoveva Chavez Community Center ice rink to an indoor soccer turf field. 

Mayor Webber previously sent out a press release stating that a new Major Arena Soccer League team would be playing six games at the rink. The release states that the arena “will be converted to indoor turf with a thermal controlled subfloor to protect the ice.”


Reduced Ice Time and No Agreement on Conversion Process

If the plan is enacted, hockey players, curlers, and ice skaters will lose access to large blocks of ice time.

Josh Meyers, the captain of the Santa Fe Blue Jackets High School hockey team, spoke up at the meeting: “This rink means the world to all of us,” Josh said. “Kids from all the high schools attend the games.” 

Anne Muchmore, the Santa Fe Youth Hockey president, calculated that if the temporary conversion goes through, young hockey teams would only have three weekends available to host games during the hockey season.  

Several people have expressed concern that the city is underestimating the time and resources needed to convert the rink back and forth between uses. 

Dr. Michael Manikus, an adult recreational hockey player, told the City Council that he spoke with a professional ice installer that works with NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Manikus reported that the ice installer stated that it takes “20 to 25 skilled professional floor installers” to convert an ice arena, and that the process takes eight to nine hours.

Mr. Michael Cardinal, a former NHL Minnesota Wild official who has observed ice conversions in professional arenas (but was not at the meeting), has offered information about the rink conversion: “You need 20 to 35 people that specialize in conversions, not volunteers.” He also said these people have to use “specialized equipment.”

David Fresquez is the owner of the MASL2 franchise in Santa Fe. A 2005 graduate of Santa Fe High who played soccer under Coach Chris Eadie, he told The Demon Tattler that he wants to start the team because “[he] loves soccer and [he] wanted people and families to do things in the winter months.” 

When asked about the ice-to-turf conversion process, Frequez said it “could be like four to six people,” proposing that “there can also be volunteers.”


More Than Soccer in the Arena?

Fresquez said he plans to have a team of 15 to 18 players and wants to have eight to ten local players from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Fresquez said he plans to offer discounted ticket prices for teens, including a possible Santa Fe High soccer night or hockey night. 

He also stated that once the tile and turf are in place, the ice rink could be used for other events. “For example,” he said, “we could have trade shows, we could have car shows, we could have cheerleading events, we can have field hockey, we could have arena football — like with two-hand touch or flag football — and concerts.… You name it.” 

It is unclear what the city’s vetting process for the ice arena conversion has been thus far.  Fresquez stated that The Demon Tattler’s questions were “the hardest questions [he’s] faced.”

Mayor Webber told The Demon Tattler that he “want[s] to expand the possible ways to have fun” in Santa Fe. He added, “The work that our recreation team is doing right now with David [Fresquez] and on their own is to look at all the many different variables that go into a going franchise. At the same time, David has a budget for what he can afford in terms of the business of having the franchise. So we’re trying to work out collaboratively what the economics of an arena soccer team would look like and then where the city could play a role, where David would play a role, where outside sponsorship from businesses in Santa Fe could contribute.”  

The Mayor and City Council have not announced the date when they will vote to approve or disapprove this project. 

Mayor Webber’s office put out a flyer that states, “It is expected the floor would be unavailable for several hours before each game.” There is no further information as to the resources required.


Seating Capacity: Which Calculation?

Another issue is the ice arena’s seating capacity. Although a Jan. 24 press release from Major Arena Soccer League states that the arena has a 1,200-seat capacity, according to a method of calculation promoted by industry experts, the capacity is 839.

Preferred Seating Inc. is a seating design company out of Indianapolis, Ind., that provides seating for movie theaters and sports arenas. Its website states, “Companies that sell and install bleachers have sometimes recommended allowing 18 inches per spectator.” Aluminum Bleachers, another expert seating company, states on its website, “Start with the recommended industry standard of 18 inches of seating space for every spectator.”

The Demon Tattler staff measured the aluminum bleachers in the ice arena. The bleacher sections range from 68 to 282 inches. There are 2 to 10 rows in a total of 8 sections. The total inches of bleachers was 14,930. 

The Demon Tattler staff then divided that number by the industry’s recommended 18 inches per spectator: the total equaled 829 seats on the bleachers plus 10 chairback seats, for a total spectator capacity of 839. 

The 839 figure is consistent with a recent review by the city fire marshal that estimated the capacity at 863 people. It is unknown whether the Fire Marshal’s recent review was part of this process or whether it was scheduled independently. It is also unknown whether the fire marshal’s review included the possibility for standing room only capacity.

The Preferred Seating website further states, “24 inches of personal space per fan is perhaps a more appropriate number.” 

If the 24-inch figure is used, then the seating capacity, by The Demon Tattler’s calculations, would be reduced to 632 people.