Donors say they’ll kick in $6 million for ice rink |

Donors say they’ll kick in $6 million for ice rink

John Colson

A group of unidentified citizens has tentatively agreed to pony up $6 million for construction of an Olympic-sized municipal ice rink near the Aspen public schools campus.

City officials refused to identify the benefactors, however, saying they have asked to remain anonymous, at least for now.

And the rink proposal is closely tied to voter acceptance of a nearly $14 million bond question, slated for the May municipal election. The proceeds would be used to build a city recreation center at Iselin Park and a number of other recreation-related projects and improvements.

Recreation department manager Tim Anderson said he has been negotiating since last year with one man who is acting as leader of “a group” of potential donors.

As for the secrecy surrounding the donors’ identities, he said, “They want to come forward as soon as they’re sure the program is satisfactory to their needs, their vision.”

This is the third time private individuals have become involved in the city’s drive to build a “world class ice rink.” In the 1980s, local resident Marty Flug was a prime proponent of another, much more ambitious plan to put a recreation center in the Iselin Park area. But that plan was voted down by residents, primarily because it was seen as too expensive.

More recently, industrialist and part-time Aspenite David Koch offered to pay for construction of an outdoor, winter-only ice rink at Wagner Park.

Koch’s plan ran into considerable local opposition, primarily due to the city’s attachment to Wag-ner Park as a venue for such traditional summertime activities as the Gentlemen of Aspen Ruggerfest and the Labor Day MotherLode Volleyball Classic. In addition, neighbors of Wagner Park objected to the noise and congestion they felt a rink would inevitably generate. The City Council finally declined Koch’s offer.

The most recent attempt to put a rink at Iselin Park came through a proposal to form a recreation district to pay for construction of a combined recreation center. That plan was voted down in 1996 as too expensive.

The latest plan is to use $13.8 million to build or improve a number of local facilities. These would include:

n $4 million for a pool and recreation center, and an additional $3 million for ball fields, soccer fields, trails and a pedestrian bridge at the Iselin/Rotary Park site and the adjacent Moore property.

n $3.9 million to build eight tennis courts at the old Plum Tree fields site; restoration of the playing field, restrooms, playground and other amenities at Wagner Park; construction of a new basketball court and playground at the Yellow Brick Park; improvements to the Rio Grande Trail; and construction of a “pedestrian way” along Cemetery Lane, along with “restoration of [a] country lane with street trees” atmosphere. $1.6 million for improvements to the municipal golf course. Slightly more than $1 million for renovations at the Aspen Ice Garden. Anderson said the ice rink would be built as an addition to the pool and recreation center, and that current plans are for it to be a 100-by-200-foot, Olympic-sized “sheet.” The Ice Garden, by comparison, is 85 feet by 185 feet. Rink manager George Pucak said that is a “pro standard” size that is smaller than most ice rinks being built today.

Anderson said the proponents of the new rink believe it could be used for a variety of activities other than providing a recreation facility for the nearby schools.

For example, he said, the Colorado Avalanche hockey team might be induced to come to Aspen for exhibition games and practice sessions, or extravaganzas such as the Stars On Ice show could be accommodated.

“We’ve been thinking, what are some of the possibilities if we go to a larger sheet of ice?” he explained. But he also stressed, “We want to build the facility for the most part to accommodate the community first.”

Asked why the benefactors are willing to kick in such a large amount of money, Anderson said simply, “they’ve got kids” and would like to see their youngsters have access to a better facility than the Ice Garden.

Plus, he said, “I think some of them are former hockey players.” But once again he declined to provide any clue as to their identities.

In general, he said of the group of donors, “They’d like us to build a quality facility that’s reflective of a world-class resort.”

Anderson said design information for the rink – including the building site and size, seating capacity, size of the ice sheet, and locker room capacity – should be completed before voters go to the polls in May, so that the votes can be cast with the two facilities in mind.

As things now stand, the only contribution from the city toward the project will be roughly $150,000 in preliminary design work.

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