COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Nearly a year ago, the pandemic forced the Muscogee County Court System to look for a larger space for socially-distanced court proceedings and jury selections. That space was the Columbus Ice Rink.

“Since, we have mandated that they show up, we owe them the safest environment possible,” said Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson. “And the skating rink was the only facility that we had, that would afford them the opportunity to stay social distanced and remain safe.”

The new protocol meant sacrifices for local hockey players, figure skaters, coaches and even those in the public who used the facility for things like free skating.

Nearly a year later, one Columbus Hockey coach has taken matters into his own hands–circulating a petition calling on Mayor Skip Henderson to move court proceedings to a new location.

“The petition really came from, I guess, a lack of communication. That’s how I perceived it,” said Hockey Coach Jack Rosenhammer. “And I didn’t do this on behalf of the CHA, or behalf of the figure skating academy I did it as a citizen frustrated as a lack of communication.”

Rosenhammer said the lack of ice time has forced some Columbus hockey players to drive up to 2 and a half hours to the nearest available rink in Birmingham.

“So we have a lot of our players who weren’t getting quality ice time, and it was difficult to field competitive teams so a lot of our players some went up to Atlanta. Some went to Birmingham,” said Rosenhammer.

However, Director of the Columbus Civic Center Rob Landers released the following statement to WRBL News 3:

“The Columbus Civic Center staff and leadership from CHA and CFSA have been in constant dialogue throughout the entire displacement. Scheduling of ice time is based upon the schedules the organizations provided, and we have worked diligently to accommodate the request based availability of the building.”

Director of Columbus Civic Center
Rob Landers

With over 1800 signatures on his petition, Rosenhammer went in front of city council on Tuesday. The mayor, council and Landers addressed Rosenhammer’s concerns, saying there is a plan to move court from the ice tink and bring back full use of the facility in the near future.

“Fortunately the Judges have applied for a grant that has come through and they have identified another location,” said Mayor Henderson. “So we anticipate just within hopefully the next 60 days that they’ll relocate to that and get people back on the ice.”

Landers statement on this reads in part quote:

“…As discussed during City Council, courts have identified a new location to serve the public, which will allow for public ice rink activities to reengage early April. Due to guidelines provided by state court, the ice rink served as the most feasible location.”

Director of Columbus Civic Center
Rob Landers

While Rosenhammer is happy to hear there is a plan in place, he is hoping for one thing as the process to move out continues.

The one thing I would ask and a lot of those who use the rink would ask is just “What is the plan?; And we understand you can’t put a date. You can’t say “March first, we’re out”, got that, I’m a realist,” said Rosenhammer. “Ya know, I understand from what I was told [Tuesday] night the court system, they’ve signed a lease on a new facility and they’ve already begun renovations. All fine and dandy, but we’re just asking, you know, what is the plan.”

Mayor Henderson said he understands the frustrations and thanks everybody for their patience.

“I know they are frustrated, and I really sincerely appreciate their patience because I know it’s been tough. We had to, early in the pandemic, we had to shut down Columbus youth football. We made it difficult for them to get to the baseball fields, to the rec centers to the soccer fields, and we don’t do that lightly,” said Henderson. “We know it impacts the kids, we know it impacts the parents and we know how badly they need the exercise and the entertainment value they get. So we’re going to do everything we can to get the facilities open has fully as we can as quickly as we can.”

Both Rosenhammer and Landers presentations to city council–and the council’s response can be found on the Columbus Consolidated Government’s YouTube channel.

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