Polar Ice just opened its rink at Crossroads Park in Gilbert, but the local businessman who owns it is already toying with the idea of building another public-private venture with the town.
Reggie Fowler, president of Chandler-based Spiral Inc., met last week with Town Council members and other top officials to talk about the possibility of building another sports-centered venture, in a discussion described by officials who attended as interesting but very preliminary.
"The first date was OK, we're kind of intrigued, so we'd like to have a second date," Town Councilman Steve Urie said. "But we're not ready to get engaged or get married yet."
Fowler, who didn't return calls seeking comment for this story, came late to the Polar Ice game, when Spiral bought up the company that operates ice rinks in Arizona, Texas and New York last year. Polar Ice had been working with town officials since 2002 to get the rink built within the park at Greenfield and Knox roads.
Polar Ice Gilbert opened last month after delays related to the ownership changes and a deal with another company to build a water park next door, which subsequently fell apart.
Polar Ice Gilbert general manager Jim Beyer said that during its initial weeks, the rink has been meeting expectations despite the sour economy.
"For the market being down in different areas, it hasn't really hit us yet, and hopefully it won't," he said. "The last thing people will do is cut out entertainment for their children."
Fowler, who was once cut from the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals in training camp, went on to work for Mobil Oil before starting Spiral Inc. in 1989. The company now owns agricultural, entertainment and food-packaging businesses, along with office complexes in Phoenix and Denver.
Vice Mayor Joan Krueger, who along with Urie represented the council in the meeting with Fowler, said the businessman mentioned such possibilities as beach volleyball, water sports and indoor soccer.
She said the meeting was "very informal, but he considers Gilbert to be a very sports-oriented, especially youth sports-oriented, community."
Krueger said any facility built with Fowler may or may not go where the Hawaiian Falls water park was slated to be. Any solid agreement probably wouldn't come in the short term, since several other entities are already interested in teaming up with the town as it explores ways to bring recreational amenities in without footing the entire cost, Krueger said.
Gilbert ended up with a $40 million bill for the Big League Dreams ballpark, which it built and owns, but is being managed by a private company.
"Obviously we like the Polar Ice model because it's a land lease, there's a ground lease involved," Urie said. Polar Ice is renting the parkland from the town and paid the construction costs, with the town contributing the parking lot and other infrastructure. The town will be sharing Polar Ice's revenue.