IOWA DERECHO 2020

Derecho damage to Cedar Rapids ice arena and ballpark is around $7 million

Severe damage is seen to the corner of the ImOn Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Ga
Severe damage is seen to the corner of the ImOn Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — When it’s all said and done, repairs to the Imon Ice Arena from August’s derecho will cost seven figures dollar wise. Well into the seven figures.

“The original estimates were $4 million,” city finance director Casey Drew said Tuesday in a Zoom meeting with The Gazette’s editorial board. “As you get into this and look at the building, you find out there is more damage here and there ... Those are still (being discussed) with the insurance company. It’s kind of that back and forth, you have to show what the value of that is, and we are still doing that. We believe the roof is going to be a complete rebuild, we are going to have to replace the entire roof of the ice arena, which wasn’t in the initial $4 million.

“I would say that we started at $4 million, and now we are in the $6-million range in damage.”

Repairs to the 21-year-old building are ongoing in two phases.

The first phase is fixing the NHL side used by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hockey club, the building’s primary tenant. The second phase is repairing even more extensive damage to the Olympic ice-sheet side.

Drew said the hope is the NHL side will be reopened by early March, with the timetable for the Olympic side being late June/early July.

“The ice arena was pretty devastated,” he said. “Phase two, which is the Olympic side, sustained a lot of damage, so we are putting in bid specs for that. One of the things that we will look at is the base of that (rink) is sand right now. The brine system that was in there was kind of whipped up by the wind and damaged. We believe the brine system is a complete loss, and so it’s going to have to be replaced. So we will take a look at what it will cost to put back a sand-based (floor) and an alternate bid of what it would cost to cement it. I think that would give us more options for that arena area, on the Olympic side, in the future.”

A cement floor could theoretically provide more opportunities for business, such as flea markets. There is a possibility the walls on that side will be extended in order to increase bleacher seating.

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The city was in the process of having the building’s ice-production systems replaced when the derecho hit.

“The wind came in and knocked down the west wall of the Olympic sheet, which is probably the biggest piece of damage,” said Imon Ice general manager Erik Hudson. “It came in and damaged the lobby quite a bit, knocking down the wall in there as well.

“I’ve never seen anything in my entire life like it. Driving around the city of Cedar Rapids initially was a complete shock. It took me an hour to get to the facility through all the debris.”

Hudson said the RoughRiders are getting a new locker room because theirs was destroyed in the storm. The club is sitting out the 2020-21 United States Hockey League season but has pledged to return next season.

Drew estimated damage to the neighboring Veterans Memorial Stadium at $1 million. Outfield walls at the ballpark were blown down, as was an electronic ribbon advertising board and a light pole beyond right-center field.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels, the stadium’s main tenants, recently were invited by Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins to remain their affiliate, though negotiations between MLB and Minor League Baseball on a new working agreement have not been finalized and likely won’t be until mid-February. Specifications for minor league ballparks are expected to increase, with examples being larger home and visiting clubhouses and multiple indoor batting cages.

Drew was hesitant to be specific about possible ballpark improvements since the Kernels are under a gag order from MLB not to publicly discuss anything until the new contract is negotiated.

“The city is excited about baseball, we are planning on putting together a season,” Drew said. “Hopefully the timeline for the construction getting done will coincide with the beginning of the season. At that point and time, we anticipate bringing minor league baseball back to Cedar Rapids.”

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Drew did say the bidding process for derecho repairs will include estimates for the addition of possible LED lighting, which he said is assumed to be an upgrade MLB will insist upon for all of its minor league partners.

“The lighting was damaged, and so what we did from our standpoint was (talk about) LED lighting,” he said. “MLB, since they’ve been here, has talked about LED lighting eventually being the lighting standard. So what we are doing with this bid is ... our insurance is only going to pay for what was damaged, so what we did is we are having a bid of what it would cost to replace it as is and have an alternate (bid) to make it LED lighting.

"We fully anticipate the bids will come in well. If they come in well, we will probably do that upgrade now just because we know that will be a request somewhere down the road. It will be one less upgrade we have to worry about in the future.”

Drew said the city is fortunate in that its insurance deductibles for the damaged facilities is $100,000, meaning the vast extent of the repairs will come via insurance money.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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