ASPEN - Lewis Ice Arena in the Aspen Recreation Center on Maroon Creek Road opened nearly a decade ago with help from a charitable organization, SPARC, which sought to raise $8 million in private money to pay for the arena's construction and to share with the city other costs associated with the facility.
To date, SPARC has paid $7.35 million to the city through an agreement that began in June 2001. The city has spent $7.15 million on the facility and related equipment and furnishings, leaving a balance of $204,000. SPARC also has a little more than $109,000 in its own account.
With the contract between the city and SPARC expiring, the question now arises about what to do with the remaining $313,000 that was raised for the sole purpose of assisting the city-owned ice facility.
SPARC President Scott Writer, attending Monday's City Council work session, proposed closing out the old agreement under a list of various terms:
• The city would give back the $204,000 to SPARC, and the two entities would work together to determine how the money is to be spent.
• SPARC would have the right to spend the excess money on various projects, including redecoration of Lewis Ice Arena, the Aspen Ice Garden (on West Hyman Avenue) or the recreation center. Other possibilities for the money include programming for ice-based children's groups, studies related to future possibilities for the recreation center and soft costs such as SPARC administrative and planning fees.
• The city would agree to update the recreation-center business plan at its own expense and sole discretion, but no less than once every 10 years.
• The city would retain its obligation to own and operate both the Aspen Ice Garden and Lewis Ice Arena.
• The city would be responsible for reasonable annual maintenance of SPARC's redecoration and improvements of facilities on which both entities agree.
City Council members at Monday's meeting generally accepted Writer's proposal but also said that the city will want to retain the right to approve or disapprove of future SPARC expenditures of the excess money. They also asked City Attorney Jim True to meet with Writer to iron out the terms of a new agreement with the charitable organization.
"We're going to try to put together a document that would amend the old agreement in a manner that would be OK with City Council because the one thing I heard the council say was that (Writer's proposal) is consistent with the agreement, but we don't want the money spent for things that are not acceptable to the city," True said. "We don't want to agree to something without some control because it is still our facility."