Wichita plan takes ice center away from Genesis Heath Clubs

After many complaints by the skating public about poor maintenance of the Wichita Ice Center, the Wichita City Council is poised to vote Tuesday to switch operators.

After many complaints by the skating public about poor maintenance of the Wichita Ice Center, the Wichita City Council is poised to vote Tuesday to switch operators.

The Wichita Eagle

A year and a half after hockey and figure skating enthusiasts gathered thousands of signatures seeking to end Genesis Health Club’s management of the Wichita Ice Center, the City Council is poised to do it on Tuesday.

The council will vote on a recommendation from staff to end the city’s management agreement with Genesis and turn the ice center back over to its former operator, Rink Management Services Corp.

RMSC ran the city-owned ice center from August 2006 to March 2011.

As that contract ended, City Hall turned control of the center over to Genesis in a package deal that included Genesis using the second floor of the facility for a private health club. The city borrowed and lent Genesis $750,000 to remodel the upstairs.

Genesis is owned by Rodney and Brandon Steven, who also own the Wichita Thunder minor-league professional hockey team.

Efforts to reach Rodney Steven late Thursday were unsuccessful.

The fate of the health club and accompanying sports bar on the second floor was not noted in the city’s staff report recommending the change in rink operators.

Genesis’ management has been plagued by complaints from the skating public in recent years that the company poured money into the second floor health club while allowing the skating part of facility to become run down.

Complaints ranged from blown-out lights, worn out and smudged glass and dasher boards around the rinks, player bench areas with rotted floors, play clocks and scoreboards that either have been unusable for years or break down during games.

In July 2020, hockey player and referee John D. Ford started an online petition calling for an end to Genesis management of the center. It pretty quickly drew about 2,600 signatures and more than a thousand more have signed since.

Ford said he thinks the petition made a difference: “This (contract change) is the 3,700 signatures that we started back a year and a half ago.”

Ford said turning the center back over to RMSC is a step in the right direction.

“They run rinks and fitness facilities and other items all across the country,” Ford said. “And honestly, when they ran this facility back in pre-2010, there were really no complaints.”

He said he reviewed recordings of the council meeting where the ice center was turned over to Genesis. Genesis argued at the time that RMSC was strong on programming but weak on maintenance.

“Obviously, over the past few years, Genesis has failed on both of those counts,” he said.

The city staff report recommending change didn’t address the public complaints about the arena under Genesis management, although it did praise RMSC.

“RMSC is familiar with the Wichita Ice Center and has many satisfied customers across the country,” the report said. “RMSC has a long history of ice rink management and is able to take over the operations with little down time.”

The recommendation appears to put to rest the possibility that the city would sell the center, an idea floated in an October request for proposals titled “Sale OR Professional Management for Wichita Ice Center.”

The city will pay RMSC a monthly management fee of $6,500, which appears to be slightly more than Genesis was getting.

The proposed contract is for five years with an option to renew for an additional five.

This story was originally published January 14, 2022 4:53 AM.

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.


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