Petition to save Grand Haven-area roller hockey rink

Township plans to turn rink at Mercury Park into pickleball courts

Grand Haven Township, Mercury Park, roller hockey rink,
People play roller hockey at Mercury Park in Grand Haven Township on May 14, 2017)

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s a growing effort to save a Grand Haven-area landmark.

The area’s only outdoor roller hockey rink at Mercury Park is slated for demolition. The plan is to replace it with pickleball courts.

Grand Haven Township Board Superintendent Bill Cargo says the township made the decision on April 27 because not enough people were using the roller rink.

But players and parents who have watched their kids grow up playing at Mercury Park feel the change would eliminate a haven for kids in the community.

“Just pure happiness. It’s where I’m in my element,” Grand Haven resident Zak Wiersma described playing roller hockey.

“Pickleball target is 60 and up for the most part and it’s just taking one thing away from kids,” he continued.

After learning the township had decided to turn the rink into pickleball courts, hockey players took a stand. They protested outside the park on Sunday, holding signs that read, “I learned to skate here” and “Save our rink.”

They also started an online petition to reverse the township’s decision. That petition had hundreds of signatures as of Sunday. Organizers planned to present it to township officials after they had collected at least 1,000 signatures.

“Please don’t take away our hockey rink. This is my life and I know a lot of other people feel the same way. It would kill me. It would kill my heart,” resident Hayden Gerwig said.

But Cargo says the numbers speak for themselves. Since opening in 1998, he said the number of kids using the facility has declined dramatically since it opened in 1998. Previously, he said, an average of 450 kids signed up each year to play hockey at the rink through the Ottawa Recreation Authority. In 2014, 24 kids signed up. In 2016, there were none.

While many players who grew up on the roller rink acknowledge the declining numbers, they say keeping it would encourage kids who are more interested in technology than going outside to be active.

“They just need some physical activities, just get out of the house, get off their phones and be active,” Wiersma said.

“It has taught them teamwork. It’s taught them respect for people. It has just taught them to get along with everybody,” parent Cherie Clark said.

Cargo said the board is in the process of picking a design firm to work on that demolition. That demolition process could begin next year.