Ice rink back on front burner | AspenTimes.com

Ice rink back on front burner

John Colson

An entirely new effort is under way to get a new ice rink built in Aspen, either through private means, public funding or some combination of both.

While it no longer appears likely that private benefactors will donate the entire amount needed to build a rink, local officials and a volunteer group are already working on a new plan to raise the necessary money.

And, according to City Council member Tom McCabe, a new fund-raising drive may yet involve some of the potential donors who were working on a original private-funding effort.

There has been talk for years of building a new rink in Aspen, based on a general acknowledgement that the town’s need has outgrown the capacity of the existing Aspen Ice Garden facility.

The most recent effort began more than a year ago, when a group of unidentified private donors offered to pay for construction of a rink. City officials had toyed with the idea of adding an ice rink to the $14 million recreation bond package that was approved by voters last spring, but held off because of the expectation that the private funding would come through.

That private funding effort fell apart this fall, because the city and the donors could not reach agreement on such issues as the number of seats, design of the facility and costs, according to some who were familiar with the discussions.

McCabe, who along with Mayor Rachel Richards has been attending some of the meetings of the newly formed ice rink planning group, said Wednesday, “We’re trying to outline an approach to get this thing built.” He pointed out the City Council recently put up $250,000 to pay for preliminary designs of an ice rink facility.

He said the latest estimates call for a rink with as many as 750 seats and an “NHL-sized sheet of ice,” to be built at Iselin Park on Maroon Creek Road, adjacent to the city swimming pool.

Although there are no hard figures available yet, McCabe said the group has a working construction estimate of $5.5 million to $6 million.

“We don’t want a Rolls Royce kind of ice rink … it needs to be functional,” McCabe said.

The Aspen Ice Garden, under the group’s current plans, would remain in operation.

As things stand now, McCabe said, the group is working on formation of a fund-raising committee, and creation of what he termed “a sort of white paper” outlining as many details as are known about the hoped-for rink.

He said a number of unknown variables have yet to be figured out, including the question of whether the Aspen Youth Center will be relocating to a facility on the Iselin Park property, and whether the Youth Center would end up paying into a construction fund that might affect both the pool and the ice rink projects.

In any event, he said, the rink committee is hoping the fund-raising can be aimed at both large-scale private donors as well as the general public.

“Apparently, there are some heavy hitters that are at least interested,” he said.

He said the group is also considering the idea of corporate sponsorship, in which a large corporation would contribute the lion’s share of the project costs (if not the whole amount) and the facility would be named for that corporation.

“I’m just trying to keep the ball rolling in this,” McCabe said of his involvement. “It started to fall apart, so we [the City Council] figured we’d light a fire under it.”


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