Ice Center’s management controversy

WICHITA, Kansas — The Wichita Ice Center is at the center of a controversy. The private management firm in charge of the publicly owned facility made a policy change that the city’s figure skating club members say forced them to travel hundreds of miles for ice time.

The two sides; the figure skating club and the rink’s management came together to find common ground over a change that went into effect earlier this month. Families are concerned with a big change– the rink’s private management company, Genesis Health Club, began asking figure skating coaches who are independent contractors to become full time Genesis employees. They could not longer coach at the facility as independent contractors.

The coaches’ claim the change involves a 40% pay cut and puts in other restrictive policies.

But the rink’s manager says changes needed to be made. Manager Rob Boyles tells KSN the changes had been planned before he took over as the manager in 2012. Boyles says the rink’s customers said the state of figure skating in Wichita needed to be improved. He says the coaching policy change is one way to ensure figure skating in Wichita will thrive.

“I think it’s going to help grow the sport in Wichita,” Boyles said.

Brent Davis is the father of a young figure skater with a goal of competing in national competitions. But his daughter’s coach, who Davis says is one of the few area coaches qualified to teach skaters with hopes of going national, has not been teaching in Wichita because of the policy change.

“We’re on the front end of this thing right now because we don’t want it to ruin our daughter’s skating career. Some are already on the verge of deciding not to skate anymore,” Davis said.

The two sides came together for a meeting to discuss options going forward. We wanted to sit in on that meeting to get a better perspective of the issue. We were asked by management to leave.

Those who did attend say their concerns were heard. But they’re not convinced their favorite skate coaches will be coming back home.

“They listened, we are hopeful we can get coaches who are independent contractors to coach here at the facility,” said Helen Haskin, Treasurer of the Wichita Figure Skating Club.

This issue may be far from over. Figure skating group members say their next step is to ask the city council to implement a change to allow independent contractors to coach here at what they call a reasonable rate.

Meanwhile, management is convinced this move will help grow the sport in Wichita. Genesis is under contract to run the ice center until 2016. The city pays Genesis $42,000 for its services.

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