New federal rules at ice rinks hit Detroit charity-run youth program hard

Hockey is an expensive sport, and it's about to get more expensive for youth in the area.

A new federal rule is overhauling the kind of material used to make the ice that goes into rinks. Freon, which historically was pushed through an underground system to create ice is now being banned from production in January. The rule is supposed to be better for the environment, but it's also putting ice rinks in a tricky situation. 

"(About) 2,500 rinks in the United States and 1,900 in Canada and they all have to go through a big change with this cooling thing," said Brian Francis.

Forced to switch over to ammonia, it'll be a costly change - one that hits the East Side Youth Sports Foundation particularly hard.

The East Side Youth Sports Foundation in Detroit raises a lot of money to help kids play hockey. With the change, they'll need an extra $300,000. If they don't raise it, it's lights out for some kids who count on them to play hockey.

In 2015, the East Side Youth Sports Foundation the decrepit rink long known as GPCR. The foundation changed the name to East Side Hockey Ice Arena.

The foundation originally spent $100,000 on the roof and spend hundreds of thousands more overhauling the lobby, replacing the floors. They also worked on a cooling tower, locker rooms, and installed this crazy looking sock to take out humidity and bring in fresher air.

However, their costliest endeavor has also been their most important expenditure: the kids. Since 2017, the foundation says it has awarded $110,000 in hockey scholarships. That support put hundreds of kids on the ice.

"We purchased the rink by forming a charity but we're able to take every dollar that we raise for license and put it back into the facility and back into the kids' programs," Francis said. "So every dollar that comes into this place flows back out into the kids."

Now comes the bummer part of a philanthropic experiment: there's no easy way to raise so much money. Private rinks can raise prices, municipal rinks can raise taxes, but because ESH Ice Arena is run by a charity, and the charity is run by volunteers, they need your help to raise $300,000.

If they come up short, one of the few expenses they can cut is support for kids who can't afford to play hockey without their help.

You can make a donation to help the East Side Youth Sports Foundation continue providing opportunities for needy kids by following this link.