Why I Started The Iowa Ice Sports Foundation

How this all came together:

Growing up in Des Moines, attending Dowling High School and traveling all over the state for Football, Baseball, and Basketball, I was very fortunate to practice and compete in many state of the art facilities. Over the years, these facilities have continued to improve with new technology, new information, and infrastructure to support the growth of the games.

In January of 2017, my oldest son started playing on his first travel hockey team. Hockey was, and somewhat still is, a foreign sport to me as it is one sport I never played. My only access prior to my boys starting up was what I saw in the greater Des Moines area. My view was none other than "I guess this is what Hockey facilities consist of." Boy was I wrong.

My first two trips were to Cedar Rapids Ice Arena and Dubuque Iowa's Ice Facility; which are extremely beautiful facilities. My immediate reaction was defensive and more as a proud citizen who grew up in Des Moines and understands that Des Moines is rated in the top 10 of nearly every socioeconomic category in the country; from quality of life, jobs, up and coming, young professionals, etc. We have Wells Fargo Arena, Principal Park, Amazing Golf Courses, High School Football Stadiums, Cownie Soccer Complex, Beautiful Basketball Facilities. All of which are leaps and bounds above what we are offering ice sports such as Hockey, Figure Skating, and many other non-ice but arena needed activities. Needless to say, the Des Moines area is in dire need of new Ice Facilities. This could not have been more clear after asking around and understanding that every single parent I spoke with was in full agreement.

As I began research, the demand for a centrally located arena in Des Moines would not only capture all of the state of Iowa competitors, I would attract all of the surrounding states due to its 80/35 location and close drive. This allows cities to compete such as Minneapolis against St. Louis, or Kansas City versus Chicago without having to hop on a plane.  The Soccer club sees this with hosting up to 120 teams in one weekend that all spend thousands of dollars supporting our local economy. With the current state of Des Moines ice facilities people do not want to travel to play here simply because of the poor set up and condition. A condition that first hand is not getting better, but worse quickly.

The feasibility study needed to start a project like this is currently under way and will take about 6 months. At that time we will be able to better understand the viability and begin the capital campaign. This will start out as a 2 Sheet Ice Facility with a 3500 seat arena, estimated at ~$16 Million. It will be constructed in an area that can be built on to over the years, and also offer growth to other sports such as a future soccer complex to maximize year round usage. The end all be all would be adding an indoor training facility for all activities. This is not out of the realm, Coralville Iowa has already approved a $185 million dollar investment that includes a $45 million dollar Arena, an $18 million dollar Field House, and an $18 million dollar Parking Ramp. The market opportunity in Des Moines is significantly greater than that of Coralville and we are looking at a project at about a 10th the cost.

A nonprofit has been set up, Iowa Ice Sports Foundation, to educate and raise money towards the new arena / center. Naming rights and corporate donations will be a great opportunity for many local businesses to contribute and brand themselves as the sports donor / sponsor for all of youth and high school activities.

I am extremely thankful for the support we have already been given by the community, the city of West Des Moines, and locals asking how they can help. I will keep everyone posted on the project and am optimistic we will have this project complete by fall of 2020.

Any questions, please feel free to give me a call at 715-864-3007. 

Ryan Opp