Letter: Cougars hockey team needs a home rink

I live in St. Anthony Park and I am a sophomore at St. Paul Central High School. I play hockey for the Como Park/Central Cougars.

For the past many years, Como Park/Central high school hockey teams practiced and played home games as guests of the Warner Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Next year, we have nowhere to play. In December, we were told that due to deterioration of ice-making equipment, there will no longer be ice at the historic coliseum.

So we turned to Ramsey County, which controls the public arenas and allocates ice to our schools. As a “solution,” the county has offered us West Side Arena.

West Side Arena is 10 miles away from St. Anthony Park, my neighborhood. Central gets out of school at 2 p.m. I then take a 40-minute bus ride home. For me to get to the West Side and get dressed in 20 minutes for a 3 o’clock practice would be a small miracle.

At the moment, the Como Park/Central hockey team is a solid urban program, from over 100 households in the central part of St. Paul between St. Anthony Park and Ramsey Hill. And we need your help.

Coach Bakken, Coach Beach and Coach Karl are the three best coaches I have had the pleasure of working with. My teammates are the same kids who taught me how to skate at Langford Park in the fifth grade, who brought me up when I was having a bad game. They are good student athletes with a high team grade point average.

We had three conference wins (and 12 nonconference wins) last year. Como Park and Johnson are the only two public schools in our conference. The other six, including Blake, Breck, St. Paul Academy and Mounds Park, are private.

Como hockey has a lot of tradition, and I am proud each time I put on that black-and-yellow Cougars jersey. A failure to find a suitable home rink could kill St. Paul Central/Como Park hockey. Kids like me, who played at Langford, would have to look outside the city public schools to find a program to play for in high school.

We know there are better options that could be made available. Mr. Searles, the athletic director at Como Park High School, has proposed a scenario in which we play at Oscar Johnson Arena. We call it O.J. Located conveniently between Central and Como Park, O.J. provides a better facility and equity.

We want an equitable local rink in our community. We want the same thing that Johnson has at the Gustafson-Phalen or what Highland Park High School has at Charles M. Schulz-Highland Arena—close proximity to their schools and communities.

Let our Ramsey County officials know how you feel, because it’s a lot harder to say no to 100 people than one kid from St. Paul Central.

Sebastian Tippett, St. Anthony Park

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