The new ice surface at the David S. Palmer Arena will welcome a new team next fall as the Vermilion County Bobcats will replace the Danville Dashers.

DANVILLE — It’s taken longer than projected, due to COVID-19 and delays, but the new ice at the Danville S. Palmer Arena is expected to be in use starting next week.

In addition to receiving an update on the ice, the arena board this week also approved a $1 increase in the price for open skating.

The cost now will be $6 for open skating and still $1 for skate rental.

Arena General Manager Joe Dunagan said they looked at what other facilities are charging for similar activities, including looking at other arenas with ice in central Illinois but also businesses like Illini Skateland.

“We still are very, very low compared to a number of other ice rinks,” Dunagan said, adding that open skating is $11 in Bloomington.

He said he also knows Danville isn’t like other cities, and the arena wants to meet the needs of this community but also cover their costs.

Dunagan said they are planning for the first groups to use the new ice starting next week.

“We’re going to gradually move into this,” he said.

He said they are allowing groups which have administration and leadership boards to use the ice first.

Those include Danville Youth Hockey, Champaign-Urbana Youth Hockey, University of Illinois hockey team and the NTOHL (Never Too Old Hockey League) on Sunday nights.

Dunagan said each of those groups have oversight, and the arena has put it out there that anybody who wants to rent the space, “we are not going to be responsible. It is up to them to follow the (COVID-19) mandates.”

He said the groups are responsible for enforcing the mandates.

“We’re testing this whole process,” he added.

Then they will look into having open ice for the public and the sticks and pucks practice program.

“We will get to that eventually if everything goes smoothly,” Dunagan said.

The arena received a $3 million bequest from Julius W. Hegeler II, who died in 2019, for the new ice system.

The arena also is booked for other events such as March 26-28 for a weekend of youth wrestling, the community Easter church service and more youth wrestling for several weekends after that.

Dunagan said they can see 500 to 1,000 participants with the youth wrestling.

“This is going to help our restaurants, our hotels,” he said about the events bringing money into the community.

“Hopefully these organizations are able to do it,” Dunagan added, referring to COVID-19 mitigations.

Meeting rooms also are open again at the arena, and the arena has offered space to the Vermilion County Health Department for COVID-19 uses.

Dunagan said they offered the arena last year for additional patient bed space if the hospital became overrun, COVID-19 testing space and now for vaccine clinic space. He said they can help as needed.

The board this week also heard from Danville Area Community College President Stephen Nacco about strategic planning, and also discussed upgrading the arena’s security camera and telephone systems.

The board also saw the resignation of Bill Townsley as corporation counsel, due to his retirement; the resignation of board member Gil Saikley due to his retirement, but he will still be involved with the Julius W. Hegeler II grant with the arena; and resignation of a part-time human resources manager due to getting a full-time job at DACC.

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