Mill Creek warming house to convert to rec center

Among the fun things to do in the Wick Recreation Area off McCollum Road in the Mill Creek MetroParks, people would probably list as their favorites walking, using the wet and dry playgrounds, tennis, baseball and soccer areas, batting cages and Par-3 golf.

But next to the colorful Dek hockey rink is a dark, generally ignored building people still call the “warming house” or ice-rink building.

It played a key role when the Wick Recreation Area’s ice rink was next door, providing a fireplace and spot to warm up and get a hot drink.

The ice rink closed around 2002, and the building was converted into a storage space for grass cutting and other equipment.

In 2018, the MetroParks built the Dek hockey rink over the former ice rink, providing the public with a space to play a variation of ice hockey in which the game is played using a ball. Other sports also are played there, including soccer and field hockey.

The MetroParks’ master plan, however, targeted the warming house to be a public recreation center.

The park district went out to bid this month to have a contractor brighten up the building and make other aesthetic and functional changes to the 4,000 square foot structure to turn it into a banquet facility, offices, restrooms and meeting place.

Examples of ways the meeting space might be used for the public is for signups for recreational sports leagues, noted Justin Rogers, planning and operations director for the MetroParks.

The MetroParks built a new storage and maintenance building last year below the Morley Performing Arts Pavilion and is now using it.

The cost to renovate the warming house is $775,000, and the MetroParks hopes to award a contract at the May 10 meeting.

“We’re creating more of a public facility that supports all of the recreational and programatic uses at Wick Recreation Area and provides new opportunities for recreation and rentals,” Rogers said of the former warming house.

“We’re creating a banquet facility, a larger rentable space, improved concessions, a retail space, upgraded restrooms. We will have equipment and apparel for tennis, golf and sand volleyball and Dek hockey, similar to what you would have at the pro shop at our golf course but on a smaller scale,” he said. Mill Creek has two 18-hole golf courses.

“Our recreation department offices will be located in this building and some improved site work, new pedestrian access and landscaping,” he said.

It will have all new utilities, all new finishes inside and a brighter look.

“It will not get bigger. There is a small section for some restrooms, but the site plan is pretty much staying the same,” he said. “This will open it up to four season, year-round use for the public,” Rogers said.

The upgrades should tie the former warming house back into the fun activities that surround the building.

“It’s kind of prime real estate,” Rogers said of the building. “It’s right there and has been completely underutilized. Making it more inviting aesthetically and certainly its functionality is going to bring back the promise it once was when it was the warming house,” he said.

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