Known for its eclectic, international and somewhat quirky industrial mix, Mount Prospect's Kensington Business Center is emerging as a destination, with people making a lot more turns off Wolf Road onto Feehanville Drive.
The reason is the same one that has made people flock to Chicago's United Center of late -- ice hockey.
You can see the difference at 9 a.m. on a Sunday -- with a parking lot filled with cars and a lobby filled with parents, coaches and children lugging sticks and equipment.
The Mount Prospect Ice Arena officially opened for business last month at 1501 Feehanville Drive. Built for in excess of $10 million, the arena offers two full-size sheets of ice -- 200 feet long by 85 feet wide -- as well as seating for 450 at each. There are also 10 locker rooms, including ones for St. Viator High School and Notre Dame College Prep, and a pro shop. A restaurant is slated to open later this fall offering views of both rinks.
St. Viator High School's hockey program has one of the 10 locker rooms in the new Mount Prospect Ice Arena. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
One look at the facility might make you think it opened years ago. In reality, the process went from zero to 80 in a hurry.
A big reason for that is the man behind it -- Nick Papanicholas Sr., whose full-service contracting firm, Nicholas & Associates Inc., has its offices on Feehanville Drive near the rink. The firm has been in business for nearly 40 years and has its fingerprints on hundreds of projects for municipalities, school districts, park districts, restaurants and corporate offices.
Papanicholas, who grew up in Oak Park before settling in the Mount Prospect area, is a longtime Chicago Blackhawks fan. But his backing of the ice arena is rooted in a very personal interest -- two of his grandchildren play for a local club team, the Rolling Meadows-based Northwest Chargers.
It was the Chargers' need for ice that spurred Papanicholas to look for land for a new facility.
"They were told that their time was going to be limited this year, as far as Rolling Meadows goes, because they shut a rink down there in order to renovate it," he said.
The club used to practice and play at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. But with the Chicago Bulls' NBA Developmental League team beginning play there in November, ice time was not longer available.
As a result, the Chargers were looking as far away as Crystal Lake for ice time.
"So how do you get your kid at five o'clock on a Wednesday to Crystal Lake?" Papanicholas said.
The new Mount Prospect Ice Arena at 1501 Feehanville Drive was built in less than six months. Developer Nick Papanicholas Sr. was driven in part by his hockey-playing grandchildren's need for a place to practice. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
He wanted to change that but didn't have much time. He talked with the Mount Prospect Park District about a public-private partnership in building a facility on Rand Road, but the bureaucratic process proved too lengthy.
He wound up finding the location he needed right in his backyard at the Kensington Business Center, but not without one false start.
"There was a building on one of the other blocks we could fit one rink in. It was owned by five disgruntled people that wanted to separate themselves. We made them an offer, but we couldn't come to terms," he said. "So we told our real estate broker to take a look at this building down here. It's been for sale for at least five or six years."
The 71,000-square-foot building on 10 acres proved satisfactory. He closed the purchase at the end of February and put the project on the fast track. He gives much of the credit to the village of Mount Prospect.
"I have never had a project where the excitement, interest, enthusiasm and administration backing has been like this," Papanicholas said. "We did this in 5
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