Juneau Parks and Recreation Director Brent Fischer says the city cannot afford to operate an ice rink at Dimond Park in the Mendenhall Valley.
In a presentation to the Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole Monday, Fischer cited declining use at the city’s only current indoor ice facility – Treadwell Arena – plus the cost of running a new rink.
“Based on the declining user group membership and rink use, the demand just does not indicate a current need for an additional sheet of ice,” Fischer said. “If we were to operate a facility similar to the Treadwell Ice Arena at Dimond Park, based upon the current budget, the CBJ just cannot afford it.”
The nonprofit Juneau Community Foundation received a $650,000 legislative grant earlier this year for planning and design of a Dimond Park Ice Rink. The project was inserted into the state capital budget by Valley Representative Cathy Munoz.
The community foundation proposed building the facility on CBJ land at Dimond Park, then turning it over to the city to operate upon completion. A similar arrangement was used to build the Dimond Park Field House, completed in 2008.
But Fischer said an ice rink is not part of the city’s current plans for Dimond Park.
“In the original 1996 Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan, it did mention the rink in the valley, but it was taken out in the 2007 addition due to the addition of the Treadwell Ice Arena,” he said.
On the other hand, Fischer said the city’s plan for Savikko Park, where Treadwell Arena is located, refers to the “potential for a second rink to be added.”
Fischer said demand at Treadwell is highest during peak hours – defined as 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. He admitted a second rink would help alleviate some of the pressure for ice time during those hours.
Assembly member Jesse Kiehl said he was sympathetic to users wanting more prime time skating opportunities.
“As we look, though, at what may or may not be possible to meet that demand, it seems to me that it would be worth it, if the city’s going to be involved in such a study, to look at more than one potential site,” Kiehl said. “And see if we can find, if a second sheet is justified, what’s the most efficient way to do it?”
The legislative grant to the community foundation can only be spent on the Dimond Park proposal. But the Assembly directed the city manager to work with the nonprofit to commission an independent feasibility study that would look at all possible options for a second rink. The city would cover the costs associated with studying the feasibility of the location next to Treadwell.
Community Foundation President Eric Kueffner said he was satisfied with that idea.
“The whole point of the community foundation is we don’t want to waste these funds,” Kueffner said. “We don’t want to start off down this avenue and use this money to study the construction of a facility if the city says, ‘Well, we have other plans for that location.’ That was our very first major concern.”
For now it appears the project will move forward, albeit cautiously, as the Assembly and city staff figure out the best way to proceed.
The city manager is expected to bring a draft request for proposals for the feasibility study back to the Assembly at some point in the future. No timeline was given.
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