WATERLOO — A portion of the downtown RiverLoop Expo Plaza will be transformed into a dek hockey rink this year.
Waterloo City Council members approved a five-year lease Monday with QC Dekhockey Inc. to bring the sport — a form of “street hockey” played in tennis shoes on a plastic surface with a ball — to the city-owned north plaza area near Park Avenue and Jefferson Street.
QC Dekhockey brought the game to Iowa in 2012, eventually opening two rinks in Bettendorf.
The operation attracts more than 3,000 players annually during two seasons running from June through October.
Company president Patrik Lavesque, a former professional hockey player and native of Quebec, Canada, believes the sport will be popular with Cedar Valley residents too. Plans call for an Aug. 1 launch.
“It’s the biggest summer sport in Quebec and it’s growing crazy (in Bettendorf),” he said. “I’m really excited to get it going in Waterloo and get the kids and adults involved.”
Lavesque’s plan drew enthusiastic endorsements from the city’s Leisure Services Commission, Waterloo Convention and Visitors Bureau and RiverLoop Association Inc.
“I think this will be a huge hit in Waterloo and I am very excited to see them get started,” said Leisure Services’ J.B. Bolger, who came away impressed after visiting the Bettendorf operation last month.
“I think what struck me the most was the tangible buzz of positivity throughout the entire complex,” Bolger said. “Everywhere you looked there were folks having a good time and enjoying a healthy activity.
“I am confident this will be a nice boost for businesses and hotels downtown,” Bolger added. “Tournaments seem to have a substantial regional draw for attendees. Patrik said he had several Waterloo teams signed up for an upcoming tournament so clearly there is already interest in this area.”
The five-year lease for the underutilized portion of the Expo Plaza requires just $1 annual payments during the first three years and $3,000 in both 2020 and 2021.
Councilman Tom Lind questioned the proposed site and the lack of a termination clause in the lease.
“I’m not so sure that’s the best location for that operation,” he said. “There’s not much parking down there.”
But Kent Shankle, president of the RiverLoop Association and Waterloo Arts Center director, said Lavesque needed the lease commitment because he will be investing more than $150,000 into the site.
“The dek hockey programs take place during the week after 5 p.m. so there shouldn’t be an impact on the businesses that run 9 to 5 during the week,” Shankle said. “There’s also some weekend hours as well.
“So it’s kind of a good fit for the downtown business activity, bringing more activities … in the evening and weekend hours,” he added.
More information about dek hockey, a low-cost activity played by all ages and skill levels, can be found on the QC Dekhockey website at www.qcdekhockey.com.