Haley Conrad glided effortlessly across the ice, jumping and dancing to music in one of the first figure skating performances at the new StarCenter Mansfield on Friday.
For the 14-year-old Mansfield resident, this is the culmination of four years of figure skating training with a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
As her mother, Jenny Conrad, watched, she can’t help but also think of the four-year journey to get to bring the StarCenter to Mansfield. It was filled with funding challenges, cost overruns and local politics that delayed the opening a year.
Now, she can put all that behind her and watch her daughter perform. Just two days later, her son played in the inaugural youth hockey tournament.
“I got teared up watching her skate,” Conrad said. “I can’t believe this is finally a reality. Just to see her so happy and my son is so happy to skate here in Mansfield. It’s a dream come true.”
Hundreds of Mansfield residents joined city officials and Dallas Stars executives to celebrate the grand opening of the StarCenter at U.S. 287 and East Broad Street in Mansfield.
In addition to figure skating, there was free public skating and a skills clinic put on by youth hockey players. Brad Alberts, president of the Dallas Stars, reflected on the growth of the sport over the last two decades. The Stars now have eight rinks in North Texas.
“When the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 there were five total sheets of ice in the area. Only three of those hosted hockey,” Alberts said. “You can make the argument that the greatest thing that the Stars have brought to Texas is the growth of youth hockey through places like this.”
Of course, the Stars also brought home a Stanley Cup in 1999 with Captain Derian Hatcher leading the team. Hatcher signed autographs right by the door to the ice rink that bears his name. The Stars named the northern rink after Hatcher, who played for the Stars from 1995-2003. The southern rink is named after Brenden Morrow, who played from 2006-2013.
The youth tournament drew the best teams from Oklahoma, Nevada and throughout Texas to Mansfield.
The new facility also means the Mansfield High School hockey team will finally have a rink of its own, said Mark Russell, senior and captain of the Tigers. The club team consists of students from all the Mansfield ISD high schools but they wear Tigers gold and black.
“All the high schools are going to come out and our friends will come out to see us play,” Russell said.
The Tigers will have one of the three club locker rooms. The Stars could find collegiate teams to occupy the other private locker rooms. There are also eight public locker rooms.
In addition to hockey and figure skating, the StarCenter will have public skate during certain hours. They will also have broomball, where players take the ice wearing sneakers and use sticks to move a ball.
The facility also has four multipurpose rooms that can be rented for birthday parties.
The party rooms were added to the facility last year along with the more energy efficient ice making system, which recycles hot and cold to maintain the ice and the climate control. This drove up the cost of the StarCenter another $3.6 million and delayed the opening a year. Several council members were frustrated at the time that construction on these additions had already started when they were asked to approve the additional funds.
That extra cost coupled with the one-year delay changed the city’s projected return on investment for the $15 million facility from $5.4 million to $1.8 million over the 30-year lease.
Mansfield also struggled to fund the project. It wasn’t until Geyer Morris, the developer of the Shops at Broad around the StarCenter, proposed a land swap with the city in exchange for the extra funding that the project proceeded.
Through the public-private partnership, the Stars will operate the facility and will pay rent to the city. Mansfield will own the StarCenter. Now that it’s open, the facility has half the carbon footprint of other ice rinks.
“This is a state-of-the-art facility. It’s got a lot of new systems,” City Manager Clayton Chandler said at the grand opening. “I’d say, opening today is the best of its kind in the country.”
Mayor David Cook said this has been a long time coming for Mansfield and will be a great contribution to the city’s park system.
“Some of our youngest residents will come here and begin learning skills that could be the foundation for an NHL career or a trip to the Olympics,” Cook said. “Dreams of all kinds will begin to be realized in this facility.”