A local representative recently sent a message to the state, urging the governor to reopen ice arenas. Pictured is Suburban Ice in Macomb Township.

A local representative recently sent a message to the state, urging the governor to reopen ice arenas. Pictured is Suburban Ice in Macomb Township.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

Residents sign letter urging for ice arenas to reopen

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 4, 2020


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Ice arenas remain closed in Michigan, as has been the case for nearly six months.

It is because of that circumstance that led a local representative to send a message to the state, right to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan Sen. Michael MacDonald, a Republican who represents Michigan’s 10th District’s area of Macomb Township, parts of Clinton Township and Sterling Heights, sent a letter to the governor Aug. 6 urging her to allow ice arenas in Michigan to reopen. He also invited the public to sign on to the letter.

On Aug. 17, MacDonald’s office hand delivered to Whitmer’s office over 4,700 copies of the letters from Michigan residents, the number of people who signed on to MacDonald’s letter urging her to allow ice arenas to reopen.

Then on Aug. 26, residents joined MacDonald for a meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss the state’s ice arenas and outline plans to allow them to safely reopen.

Mount Clemens Ice Arena Skating Director Mindi Priskey, and Kristin Rosales, a social worker and hockey mom from Sterling Heights, joined MacDonald.

In his Aug. 6 letter, MacDonald writes that he wants to attract some attention to the plight of Michigan ice arenas.

“Due to the shutdowns in our state, this industry is currently on the brink of destruction,” he wrote. “If changes are not made soon, the damage will be irreparable. This is an industry which does not have the unlimited resources to fight government decisions, so they believe that exposure is their only way to get their voices heard.”

MacDonald cites that due to the extended closure, arenas have been drained of any emergency funds they had.

“Restaurants, stores, day camps and casinos are all open for business, but it’s deemed ‘too dangerous’ for us to operate,” he said.

He added that an NHL sheet of ice is 17,000 square feet and the area around the ice including bleachers, locker rooms and lobbies make the buildings even larger.

“The three casinos in Michigan are all just over 100,000 square feet, they are now allowed to open at 15% capacity,” he said. “If casinos can operate at 15% then why can’t ice arenas? That would equate to over 500 people in an average arena building.”

He said that states surrounding Michigan are allowing 20 skaters per sheet of ice and 50 people in other areas.

He argues that figure skating is an easy sport to social distance as it is largely an individual sport.

For hockey, he mentions that players wear face cages or shields, mouth guards and gloves, and there is almost no skin-to-skin contact.

MacDonald ended the letter asking Whitmer to consider the voices of Michigan residents who have been affected by this closure.

Whitmer’s response in an Aug. 14 letter states that her administration continues to implement the MI Safe Start plan in order to carefully and safely re-engage sectors of our economy and public life.

“It’s important that we think of the reopening process as a gradual one, rather than as a switch that gets flipped on or off all at once,” she wrote. “My team and I are constantly evaluating the science, data, and feedback from public health experts to inform decisions about where we can move forward with reopening, and where we need to hold back given the risks to public health.”

She cites that cases have risen over the past month — from a rolling seven-day average of about 15 cases per million in mid-June, the low point since the peak in April, to about 50 cases per million in late July.

MacDonald said he was disappointed to receive a form letter that didn’t commit to hearing the state’s plans and didn’t address any of the points raised in his letter.