Ice, Ice, Baby

Pat White

The stats for the McKendree MetroRecPlex are impressive: 160,000 sq. ft.; two NHL-sized ice rinks; fitness rooms and open areas with state-of-the-art equipment; child care facilities; two pools; an indoor track and a kitchen. What the bare stats can’t get across, however, is the thought and detail that’s been put into the design and implementation of this beautiful, new facility. According to principal, Dean Oelze, the project has been four years in the making.

Hockey Rink at the McKendree MetroRecPlexThe Junior Rink is the smaller of the two ice rinks. It will be open year-round for skating and hockey lessons, leagues and practices, Stick & Puck sessions and free skating. There is seating for 60 – 100 people at high-top tables surrounding the rink, so parents and friends can watch. The larger Poettker Arena has the potential to seat 2,000+:  900 in fixed bleachers; 900 in retractable seating; and 200 – 300 in the mezzanine and suites. It is open during hockey season from September to March for games and ice events. McKendree University’s men’s and women’s hockey teams and the Southern Illinois Ice Hawks practice and play here along with other teams. At the end of the season, the magic happens when the ice and surrounding glass walls are removed to open up 20,000 sq.ft. of unobstructed, flexible space for concerts, banquets, trade shows, speaker’s forums, basketball and volleybaBasketball Court at the McKendree MetroRecPlexll games, graduations, etc. with catering available.

On the opposite side of the building is the Aquatics Center with two pools, men’s and women’s locker rooms and showers. The Recreation Pool is a zero entry that gradually deepens to four feet. The temperature is kept at around 85 degrees, perfect for children, water aerobics or rehabilitation therapy. There is even an installed lift that can move a person from a wheelchair into the pool. The entire building is completely ADA compliant, and nowhere is that more obvious than this pool.

Next to it is the Championship Pool for competitions, lap swimming, water polo and diving with seating for 600. It’s a cool 79 degrees and slopes from eight ft. to a depth of 14 ft. There’s a five-meter fixed diving platform and two-one meter and two three-meter springboards. This set up is perfect for training the next Michael Phelps or Greg Louganis!

Gym at the McKendree MetroRecPlexIn between the ice rinks and aquatics area on the first floor is the Fitness Center with a weight room and cardio area, locker rooms, child care rooms, a full concession area and a half-court gym. Workouts and fitness classes are held in this space. Two open rooms (670 sq. ft. each) can be set up for classes, parties or smaller meeting groups. On the second level, treadmills, recumbent bikes and other equipment are positioned so mom and dad can work out while overlooking the action in the pools below. The elevated indoor track (16 laps = 1 mile) is located here. The third floor is designed as a suites area for corporate sponsors with food and bar service and a great view of the Poettker Arena.

The MetroRecPlex is membership based, but offers day passes for non-members ($8 per adult, $5 per youth (18 & under) and $22 per family of 4). It opened to the public in February, so take a tour and be prepared to say, “WOW!”

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