No home games at RP Lumber Center


As excitement builds for the opening of the RP Lumber Center ice rink around Memorial Day, Edwardsville High School’s ice hockey program recently received some bad news.

Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association President John Criswell informed the high school program that the league has no plans to schedule games at the new rink.

The Tigers had three teams in the league last season, including one in the varsity division and two in the junior varsity division. The top EHS ice hockey team competes in a separate Missouri league within the Mid States Club Hockey Association.

The MVCHA typically schedules matches between early November and mid-March.

In an email to Criswell’s The Intelligencer, the MVHCA president gave reasons for his decision.

“MVCHA’s position is very clear and simple. We currently do not require additional ice for games. We are not going to take ice (revenue) from our rinks that we currently support and that support the MVCHA just to give it to a new rink that is not even operational and functional. If we need additional ice, we would be more than happy to discuss purchasing ice,” Criswell wrote in an April 8 email.

MVCHA matches are currently played at East Alton Ice Arena, Granite City Ice Rink, and McKendree Metro Rec Plex in O’Fallon.

Edwardsville Parks and Recreation Director Nate Tingley said the city isn’t looking to get revenue from other rinks in the area. He wanted to work with these rinks and allow the Edwardsville ice hockey program to play some games on campus.

Edwardsville ice hockey coach Jason Walker was disappointed with the decision.

“It was something we had hoped to do from the beginning of the project. Now that we are approaching the finish line, we wanted to make sure everything was lined up. In the process of making sure we had the dates for the home games, this stuff popped up. He came out of nowhere. We expected them to be excited about the new rink and the ability to grow the game,” Walker said.

During discussions with the league about the Edwardsville home games, Walker said several safety issues were raised, including the track that runs over the rink and the ice temperature for the games. Walker said rink superintendent Phil Zamora responded to the concerns. Zamora worked for 21 years at The Rinks of Lakewood, home of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, and since 2018 he was at Webster Groves Rink before being hired in Edwardsville last November.

“We’re a bit in shock and it’s frustrating,” Walker said. “There were concerns about the track up there as spectators could be above the benches during games. There was also a concern about the ice and making sure it was up to game specifications.

“Obviously Phil is brilliant and was able to take care of those concerns. He’s going to run the rink and do an amazing job.

Construction of the RP Lumber Center ice rink, which will seat 650 people, began in March 2021 with SM Wilson, Inc. as the prime contractor. The cost, including engineering and FF&E, was estimated at $13.5 million for the facility which also included a track and teen center.

More than a year before construction began, Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton formed three community groups – design, operations and finance – to discuss the new facility. He contacted the community for anyone interested.

Volunteers were allowed to choose a committee or be assigned based on their talents.

Criswell said neither he nor any member of the MVCHA board had been invited to either group.

“Prior to the construction of the rink in Edwardsville, there was no communication with the MVCHA board of directors nor did the board sign a letter of intent to use it,” Criswell wrote in an email to The Intelligencer on April 11.

According to Tingley, if Criswell had said he would have liked to join either committee, he would have been more than welcome.

“It would have been an easy decision,” Tingley said. “We would have even said the same if a representative from Mid States wanted to do the same. We were hoping to get anybody’s opinion.

“We hope (the MVCHA) won’t deny local teams playing in Edwardsville because we didn’t ask them in the focus group.”

Last season, MVCHA’s three EHS teams played a total of 77 games, including 41 at East Alton Ice Arena, 26 at Granite City Ice Arena, nine at McKendree Metro Rec Plex and one at Fenton Forum Ice Arena. . Edwardsville was to be the home team for 39 of those games.

Start times ranged from 4:10 p.m. weekends and 7:00 p.m. weekdays to 10:30 p.m. weekends and 9:15 p.m. weekdays. It does not count if the games started late due to games earlier that day.

Walker hoped that with the RP Lumber Center rink, his program would be able to schedule home games with start times earlier than 9 p.m.

“We wanted to give our kids the opportunity to play games on our campus, just like other sports. We’re not trying to take away other teams’ home games and bring them to this rink. We wanted to make sure we could secure our home games,” Walker said. “We’re trying to grow the game. We were playing games weeknights at 9 p.m. and wouldn’t come home until 11 p.m. on a school night. We were hoping to mitigate that with this rink with better playing times and being able to get home at a more reasonable time.

Walker also thinks the late games and 30-minute trips to the rinks have had an impact on community and school support for the program.

“We would like the student body to be more involved. Kids want to go to these games and see their friends play, but parents don’t want to send them 30 minutes on the road at 8:45 p.m. on a school night,” Walker said. “We hope we can figure it all out, which would allow more kids to play and the student body to get more involved.”

The Edwardsville High School ice hockey program will be able to practice at the facility regardless of the MVCHA’s decision on home games.

Last season, the program paid a flat rate of $16,006 for the season for all three MVHCA teams for ice time for games and operations, including referees and scorekeepers.

With league fees, MVHCA purchases ice time for each facility’s games.

Ice time fees for practices are separate.

The Edwardsville High School Ice Hockey Program announced on June 15 a 10-year lease for exclusive locker rooms at the RP Lumber Rink. According to the contract, the program was to cover all construction costs associated with the space.

If the MVCHA does not schedule any games at the RP Lumber Rink, the facility will still be very busy.

“We have several other groups looking for ice time, including for practices. We also have Twin Bridges, the local youth hockey organization, looking for ice time. There is a women’s hockey group based in St. Louis looking for ice time,” Tingley said. “Phil also devotes time to in-house programming, including a learn-to-skate program. The revenue goes back to the town and we staff it, teach the kids and provide the equipment. We don’t just rely on rentals. We also try to develop interest from the ground floor.

“We want to make it available and accessible to all families in the region to give them opportunities to learn. We are going to involve other people and learn to skate. There will also be tons of public skate sessions and free time for figure skaters.

“We would also like to have the MVCHA there and join East Alton, Granite City and O’Fallon.”

Meanwhile, the Mid State Club Hockey Association is thrilled with the opening of the RP Lumber Center rink, according to Walker.

“They are so supportive of it. We play all our home games there for Mid States. They were also interested in playing other games than us there. They don’t want to schedule matches at a late hour. They are very concerned about the kids and make sure they don’t play late on school nights. They see this as an opportunity to do that,” Walker said.

Edwardsville played 10 home games in the Mid States at East Alton Ice Arena last season.

This season, the top ice hockey team in the program will play home games right on campus.

“We want to use this rink to its best capacity,” Walker said.


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