Reinvest in CH Community Center
A plan to permanently give up on the south rink at the Cleveland Heights Community Center recently brought residents to speak out at a city council meeting. I was among them.
Not every child wants to play hockey or figure skate, and the Cleveland Heights Speedskating program offers a fun, wholesome and exciting alternative. Our current members represent nine cities and seven schools. One of our skaters is now a member of the elite U.S. World Cup team.
Pre-pandemic, we had up six hours a week of practice ice. With the south rink closed, that’s down to 2.5 hours.
Apollo Ohno skated here twice in his journey to winning eight Olympic medals. In late November, we hosted 80 skaters from around the country for a national-qualifier skating meet. The meet used to be held over two days, and could accommodate far more skaters, but is now limited to a single day by the shortage of available ice time.
I talked with a coach from another city who had skated at the highest level here with Ohno, and asked why he still comes to our meets. He said, “ . . . the atmosphere of Cleveland Heights; I love coming here. What's happened here?”
The hustle and bustle of families of all races and socio-economic status scurrying to get on the ice is missing. There is no longer a vibrant community atmosphere. Classroom spaces and programs like Safety Town have gone dark, and much of the building is empty at times when it used to be packed with families. It makes me sad.
Programs like speedskating, hockey and learn-to-skate bring families through the doors. The meets and tournaments bring visitors to our business districts.
But after years of neglect, the community center can’t effectively support those activities anymore. [This] threatens the existence of programs for which Cleveland Heights has long been admired; and it fails to meet the city’s promise to residents.
The demand for ice programming exists and is growing. If City Hall has the will to revitalize our community center, there are creative ways to finance the cost of rink repairs and upkeep. I’ve been to a lot of rinks across the country and see it. I know we can do this if we work together.
I ask the mayor and city council not to give up on the long-term vision of what a vibrant community center means to our city and its residents, and develop a plan for reinvestment.
Barb Rosenbaum has lived in Cleveland Heights for more than 30 years, and has run the speedskating program for 15 years.