PEORIA — The clock is ticking on the ice-making system in Carver Arena.


It is nearing the end of its lifespan, an ongoing issue of which both the Peoria Rivermen and landlord Peoria Civic Center are aware.


The present system was put in during the mid-1990s, and over the last couple seasons has had malfunctions that have washed out the color on the ice, left long dark streaks and left the SPHL team playing on a cosmetically poor surface, cost thousands of dollars for the facility to quick-fix and left a looming threat of a more severe breakdown halting a season.


The Civic Center has won a $25 million grant from the state for capital improvements in the facility -- a gift from the gods, if you will -- and certainly the ice-making setup is among the items on a long to-do list.


"The ice facility, we don't know what will happen with that yet," Civic Center Authority Board chairman Matt Bartolo said. "We came up with an extensive list of what to spend that $25 million on. It is definitely in that list.


"But we have not received the first dollars from the state yet. What we're able to do, and when, will be dictated by when the state gives us these grants."


A new ice system at Carver Arena is estimated to cost somewhere between $2-3.5 million. It'll have a 20-30 year lifespan if all goes well. And it will be a must-have for the Civic Center if it wants to maintain an elite profile as a venue, and be home to its 39-year professional hockey team as a tenant. Not to mention the ability to book future ice-related events, like Disney On Ice shows.


"I would say the ice plant will be part of the discussion with our committee that is going to handle these capital improvements," Civic Center general manager Rik Edgar said. "We think the ice system at Carver Arena will get us through one more season. Possibly two.


"Is there a long-term agreement with the team? If we're going to spend that kind of money, is the team staying with us?


"Those are all things that will be considered by our committee when the time comes."


In other words, the Rivermen would like to see a new ice-making plant installed before they agree to a longer-term lease deal.


And the Civic Center would like to see a longer-term lease deal before it commits to replacing the ice-making plant.


The Rivermen opened Carver Arena in 1982 as its first sports event. The arena was designed for hockey, with its sightlines and space. Over the years various NHL scouts and executives have come into the building and lauded it as a scaled-down big-league venue.


It would be hard to imagine Carver Arena without the Rivermen, and the collateral economic boost their fans provide to the downtown economy.


And it would be hard to believe city officials would let a community asset like the Rivermen leave downtown, or a facility like the Civic Center be diminished.


"We are well aware of the issue facing our organization at the Peoria Civic Center with the ice plant that is beyond its life expectancy being able to operate efficiently," Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers said. "Our players, fans and sponsors have seen the issues first hand the last few years with the challenges the Peoria Civic Center has been up against, keeping it operational for our franchise to be able to play games on while also practicing throughout each season.


"The Civic Center has worked hard and done its best to keep that ice system operating. Rivermen hockey is one of the longest continually operating minor league hockey franchises in all of North America, something that is a legacy in central Illinois we're all proud of. ... we want to continue that trend for another four decades, but without a functioning ice plant, the Rivermen have no other home or ice facility in town with a large enough capacity to make the franchise financially sustainable.


"Hopefully, with this capital improvement grant from the state, the Civic Center can help assure the community's pro hockey team will have a home."


Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.