Castle Rock businessman Greg Meakin wants to ignite economic growth with an unusual source — ice.
If Meakin has his way, the small picturesque town will one day be an ice hockey hub, attracting professional and amateur hockey players to his new $6 million ice arena off Interstate 5 starting in 2019.
Meakin announced this week that he has entered into a deal with Vancouver real estate broker Mike Canton to purchase 118 acres of property off of Larsen Lane in Castle Rock for an undisclosed price.
The developer, who has previously built ice arenas, wants to transform the former dairy farmland into an expansive commercial, retail and residential space called the Castle Rock Business Park. Already Meakin has been in talks with an RV and boat storage business and consignment shops to locate there, although there still is plenty of land up for grabs.
Yet Meakin said the crowning jewel of the business park will be a two-to-three acre ice arena built to professional standards, plus a sports complex with baseball, soccer and football fields.
Although the arena’s design is still in the works, Meakin wants it to have the same style and impact as the Great Wolf Lodge, which looms large over Interstate 5 off in Centralia.
“It’s going to be a local jewel,” Meakin said Friday. “We’re breaking the cookie cutter of what the traditional ice rink has been.”
Although Meakin wants to attract professional players, he said the two-sheet ice rink will be built to appeal to a myriad of ages, abilities and community uses.
Meakin was born in the U.S. but grew up playing hockey in Canada. He carried his love for the sport with him when he moved back to the states in 1983, and eventually built the Bremerton Ice Center in 2003.
The $5 million Bremerton facility opened with much fanfare, but a $40,000 mortgage caught up with Meakin and he was forced into foreclosure after just a year. The ice rink is still in existence though and Meakin said he learned some valuable lessons. Since then he’s worked in finance for the auto industry.
Now Meakin wants to develop his rink with little or no debt, using an equity play, a public-private partnership, a nonprofit structure or a partnership with a local credit union. He is currently talking with investors and credit unions about a potential deal, he said.
Canton has long sought to develop the Hornstra property into a business park, and first approached Meakin about the idea about a decade ago.
“I’ve worked with Greg Meakin for more than a decade, and this is right in his wheelhouse. What my organization likes the most, is his vision of the property being fun and exciting for the community and region — rather than the usual heavy-industrial uses,” Canton said in a press release.
Canton said it’s possible that his holding company, Firehog Enterprises, will form a partnership with Meakin to develop the property.
Six years ago Meakin moved from Vancouver to Castle Rock to live in an old farmhouse on the property, where he has quietly been planning his massive project since.
“I literally followed my dream up here,” said Meakin. “I’ve done a lot of research investment over the years. I’ve done a lot of research on Cowlitz County and specifically Castle Rock. I’m extremely bullish on Cowlitz County.”
Meakin said the Cowlitz Tribe’s new Ilani casino in La Center and other economic developments underway make him confident in Castle Rock’s economic future.
The business park’s location right off Interstate 5 on the Cowlitz River will likely attract plenty of clients too, he said.
Beyond building a premier ice arena, Meakin said he wants his rink to promote professional women’s hockey. Meakin became a big fan of women’s professional hockey after befriending former U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team captain Cammi Granato several years ago. At one point, the two had been in talks to launch a professional women’s league out of the Seattle area but the timing and financing never panned out, Meakin said.
It’s not clear how many jobs will be created by the proposed ice rink, sport complex and business park. But Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce President Marilyn Young Skogland said it could be a welcome economic boost for the city.
“I don’t think we have a big hockey following in this area, but maybe that’s his hope and his desire. Our county is already a recreational mecca for people in a lot of ways,” Young Skogland said Friday.
“If this is someone who is serious and has the wherewithal to do it, then we as community will be thrilled to invite them and welcome them into this community for sure,” she said.