Exciting changes are under way at the Lancerlot Sports Complex. Plans were unveiled for extensive renovations to the facility on December 22 when Penalty Box Partners LLC confirmed the purchase of the Lancerlot from Henry and Sarah Brabham.
Penalty Box Partners contracted with the Roanoke-based firms Balzer and Associates and Lionberger Construction for the design and construction of the $2 million project that will restore a full sheet of ice to one side of the facility and a second sheet of ice to the entire region in addition to improvements to the existing health and fitness center.
General Manager Joe Miller said one of the biggest challenges has been to complete the renovations while keeping the Lancerlot open for business.
Demolition is proceeding on the gymnasium side of the facility that formerly housed basketball and tennis courts, a track, a child care center, the Cycle Center, and sports programs. That space will become an ice rink for hockey and other ice sports.
Miller said it was quite a monumental procedure to remove the basketball goals, netting curtains, and courts from the gym area, as well as 26 tons of various materials from throughout the facility.
In the ice area, the player side where the child care center was located is now being excavated to be replaced by locker rooms. The public side (the side nearest to the parking lot) will include space for concessions, a pro shop, restrooms, party rooms, and a skate rental area.
The concrete flooring in the gym area has been cut into numerous small slabs for removal, to be followed by installation of the refrigeration system required to make and maintain ice for the rink to accommodate the many groups who will use it.
The gymnasium space will be connected with an adjacent building to extend the ice rink and to provide housing for the ice resurfacing machine. That third building will also be renovated to provide office space.
The rink itself will measure, at maximum, 200 feet in length by 85 feet in width.
At this time, Miller said the plan is for a section of the track in place above the future hockey rink to be removed, leaving a U-shaped track for fitness walkers, rather than the oval that now exists.
The temperature in the rink will remain at 54-58 degrees once the renovations are complete.
Major changes are in progress on the fitness side of the building as well. Most noticeably there is a revamped lobby area with the check-in counter relocated along with improvements to the lounge area. Moving the counter allows for a more spacious entrance for increased traffic flow which will include participants in both the new hockey programs and health and fitness members.
A new paint scheme of red, black, and grey has livened things up considerably in the lobby and weight room areas as well. Miller said there has been late-night painting to minimize the fumes for Lancerlot members in the fitness areas.
The Cardio, Circuit, and Cycle rooms have been moved into several of the renovated racquetball courts.
Everything is being spruced up. Miller said there is little left untouched in the course of the renovations. Upgrades in the pool area have reduced humidity. Swimming lessons will continue.
While there will be no more sports camp as such, the nursery remains, although it has been relocated to a renovated space on the third floor. Gator Boxing and Grapling Sports have also relocated to another section of the building.
Exterior lights are being replaced with LED lighting to better illuminate the parking lot.
The goal of the new ownership is to have the facility ready for hockey on a “Labor Day-ish” time frame, according to Miller.
“Penalty Box Partners has a love for ice sports as well as a desire to offer a family environment that promotes healthy activity,” the new owners stated in a letter to members. “Plans are under way to have the ice ready for the 2018-2019 season.”
Miller said they are currently working extensively on their business model and partnerships with “lots of work going on behind the scenes,” not just in facility renovations. Their website is being updated. They are in the middle of a rebranding effort with a new logo ready for introduction in the coming weeks.
Management is keeping members informed during each phase of the renovations. An architectural display of floor plans, designs, and 3D renderings has been set up in the lobby area, featuring key information for existing membership as well as marketing plans for the future.
The rates for membership at the Lancerlot are “construction special rates” good for new and existing members through August 31 with enrollment fees waived for the duration. New packages will be forthcoming once renovations are complete.
Previous owner Henry Brabham is credited with founding the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and was named an inaugural member of the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008. The Lancerlot was previously home to the ECHL Virginia Lancers and the Roanoke Valley Rebels.
However, in recent years, the Lancerlot has primarily operated as a membership-based fitness center including indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
“The effort to establish additional ice in Virginia’s Blue Ridge has been a collective effort of local hockey and ice sport enthusiasts for several years,” stated Jason Pollard, managing partner, Penalty Box Partners. “The Lancerlot Sports Complex has a great deal of history and connection to ice hockey in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and our group is thrilled to be able to return ice to this facility in our effort to grow ice sports. All our partners in this venture are committed to the community and have a true love and affiliation with ice hockey and ice sports. Penalty Box Partners maintains its local ties to the community as players, parents of players, fans of hockey and ice sports as well as actively living and working in the community.”
Plans are that the Lancerlot facility will provide an additional practice location for Roanoke’s professional hockey team, the Rail Yard Dawgs, as well as serve as a primary practice and game location for several local collegiate club hockey teams.
The renovated facility will also offer the region the ability to host hockey tournaments and skating competitions.
The facility will be re-established as a base of operations for Valley Youth Hockey Association as well as the RVAHA and the RNCHL adult hockey associations. The second sheet of ice will also provide additional opportunities for adult recreational hockey, public ice skating and recreational figure skating.
“We have a great partnership with Berglund Center and are so very appreciative of the facility and what they do to support hockey in Virginia’s Blue Ridge,” stated Bob McGinn, majority owner of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. “The availability of a second sheet of ice within the region is critical to the success of the franchise and the growth of the sport at the youth level.”
“The news of this private investment project coming together in Vinton is very exciting for our citizens and the Valley as a whole,” stated Vinton Mayor Brad Grose when the change in ownership was announced. “The Lancerlot is a fixture in Vinton, and we are very thankful that its positive legacy will carry on for many more years to come.”
Miller said the owners of the renovated Lancerlot look forward to partnering with Vinton for many community events.