Is hockey just a ‘suburban thing’ ?

The Pioneer Press’ report today on a study of hockey facilities in Ramsey County raises an interesting theory: Urban kids aren’t interested much in hockey anymore, so kids from the suburbs are muscling out opportunities for the few city kids who want to play.

The theory comes from Como Park High School hockey coach Mike Searles, who says it’s been a struggle finding ice time for his kids, especially since the rink at the state fairgrounds closed.

The county has 10 ice arenas, including the Vadnais Sports Center, which was financially on the rocks when the county bought it in 2014.

The study of the county facilities will consider the cost of upgrading them, but one lingering question seems to be: for whom?

We definitely could go out and get more customers from outside Ramsey County, for example, to fill the (ice) schedule and bring in revenues, but that doesn’t meet the needs of our community. … I am looking at how to provide the right service for our young people,” (County Commissioner Rafael) Ortega said.

Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman said she also is looking forward to the comprehensive analysis, particularly after recent decisions made about county ice arenas.

Rettman did not support the purchase of the Vadnais Sports Center so soon after Biff Adams arena was taken out of the hockey ranks. She has expressed reservations about recent investments made by Cretin-Derham Hall and Hill-Murray School into county facilities.

Cretin is adding locker rooms and a community room to the Highland arena, where it has leased ice for many years. Hill-Murray completed a locker-room addition to Aldrich Arena in December.

While those are nice benefits for those communities, Rettman said, she’s concerned about equity for county arenas in neighborhoods without deep pockets.

The spectrum of possibilities for the 10 arenas is wide open, according to officials. That includes the possibility of closing or selling some of them.