By Marshall V. King
GOSHEN — In the early 1900s, enterprising families cut ice out of the frozen Goshen Millrace Canal to sell to residents.
By early 2020, a new patch of ice between the canal and the Elkhart River may draw families for a different reason.
A new Millrace Multi-Use Pavilion and Ice Rink will offer hours and hours of community skating time in winter months. Youth hockey leagues, from pee wee level on up, would likely also utilize the full-size rink.
During other parts of the year, yoga classes, company picnics, movies in the park and even weddings and reunions are all likely to happen in the facility. The Arts on the Millrace festival would have a permanent home. Having a pavilion that can be used year-round makes many Goshen Park Department activities less weather-dependent.
After years of exploration and planning, the Millrace Multi-Use Pavilion and Ice Rink at the north end of the canal and trail will create a draw for those hoping to skate in the winter and be used for events, concerts and other sports throughout the year.
“I started this thing 13 to 15 years ago,” said Dave Pottinger, one of the driving forces of Goshen’s redevelopment efforts. “I personally can’t think of anything that we could add to the city of Goshen that would affect more people in a positive way.”
Tanya Heyde, superintendent of Goshen Parks & Recreation Department, said the facility will allow the city to expand its programs. “The proposed multi-purpose pavilion will offer amenities beyond what Goshen Parks currently has. It would be the largest open-air pavilion within Goshen’s park system and able to accommodate capacities for events that exceed that of our current facilities. Having a gathering space capable of seating over 500 guests will allow for some great events to be had! The ice rink is a great addition to Goshen’s winter recreation opportunities,” she said.
Plans call for a full-sized ice rink, 5,400-square-foot support building, paved plaza and lawn space, amphitheater/stage, and parking lot.
“We’re seeking an affordable city project to create an amenity everyone could use,” said Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman.
The city has pledges for $4.8 million of the $6 million total cost. The Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Regional Cities are giving funds of $1 million and $300,000, respectively. An anonymous, local donor is giving $1 million. City redevelopment funds and other funding will likely total $3 million.
“We’re close enough to the goal we want to get started on actual design,” said Mark Brinson, Goshen director of community development. The city will issue a request for proposal in March, pick an architect in May and receive bids early next year for construction and open in January or February of 2020. “It’s probably the only project we would ever want to open in the middle of winter,” said Becky Hershberger, the city’s brownfield coordinator.
Stutsman credits Pottinger, Jon Wieand, Ken Mirer, Vic Koop and others for keeping the idea alive over the years. Pottinger credits Stutsman, his son-in-law, for finally getting the project done. A number of Goshen residents gave input for a feasibility study and more public input will be sought on design. “We want to make sure the public has a voice in this,” Stutsman said.
City officials want a flexible, vibrant space that can be used in a variety of ways, but also want to hear from people about what they want, he said. “We’re building this for Goshen,” Stutsman added.
Because of the countywide discussions part of the Vibrant Communities effort, residents are more aware of the value of amenities. “This whole Vibrant Communities initiative develops and sells a project like this,” Brinson said.
Building the pavilion and rink on the west side of the canal adds another huge amenity to a growing area of Goshen near the farmers market, Goshen Brewing Company and Hawks Building. “It’s a way to build on the amenities we’re already seeing downtown,” said Brinson.
Though planners have a lot of ideas of how the facility could be used, they also expect others to find uses they didn’t consider. “There are a lot of creative people here,” said Brinson. “People here will find ways to use that space. People are interested in gathering spaces.”
The site isn’t perfect. Though it’ll be walkable from parts of the city, those driving will have to cross the canal to park. It’s the likeliest site for the facility and has advantages. It also won’t fill the open space on the west side of the race. There will still be room for more to bubble up along a canal that provided power, electricity and is now powering quality of place improvements.
Marshall V. King is a Goshen-based freelance writer. He wrote this on behalf of Vibrant Communities.