Local offers plan for two ice rinks
The fact that finding the cash needed to build a new ice rink in town is a sketchy prospect, at best, hasn’t stopped a longtime resident from pursuing an even more ambitious goal.
Toni Kronberg came before the Aspen City Council during its weekly work session yesterday to request its support, at least in principle, for a two-rink ice palace near the school campus on Maroon Creek Road. What she left with was simply an agreement to keep listening, but only if she can show broad support for the idea.
She brought a photograph of the Aspen School District’s campus and a schematic drawing showing a new two-rink ice garden in place of the school’s bus barn. The storage and maintenance facilities for school buses could be moved to a lot behind the Roaring Fork Transit Agency bus barn across Highway 82 from the airport, Kronberg said.
“We [Kronberg and a potential donor] walked the site last Friday, and it looks like we can put two sheets of ice under one roof there,” she said.
Kronberg said response to the idea has been positive from both the school district administration and its transportation department. She says some residents of the Meadowood subdivision have also expressed support. To help pay for the project, Kronberg suggests selling the Aspen Ice Garden at the base of Aspen Mountain, perhaps to the Housing Authority.
The city has been struggling with high demand for ice time at the publicly owned Aspen Ice Garden for several years. Youth hockey programs have been growing faster than expected, and the rink is often forced to remain open 18 hours a day to serve all its users.
Last year, a group of anonymous donors offered as much as $6 million toward a new rink that would be part of the Iselin Park/James E. Moore pool remodel scheduled to begin next year, but withdrew their support when that sum wasn’t enough to build the rink they envisioned.
At least some of those donors have agreed to reconsider, and City Councilman Tom McCabe has been working toward some form of financing – either using all private funds or mostly private dollars with some public money – that satisfies the donors and the law. So when Kronberg showed up with plans to put twice as much ice on school district property, the council was skeptical.
Mayor Rachel Richards pointed out that a fair amount of work has been done on an ice rink at Iselin Park, and that the city is about to spend about $35,000 on schematic designs. She also pointed out that the current plan allows energy used to cool the ice at the rink, which creates heat, to be used to help warm the water in the pool.
McCabe, too, noted a lot of work has gone into the Iselin Park plan, and said he doesn’t want to see it derailed by a new plan. He also pointed out that there is more parking available at the Iselin Park location.
And Councilman Terry Paulson said, “I’m one of the people who supports keeping the ice rink where it is. If we keep losing all of our amenities, Aspen will become a shell of a town.”
Kronberg nonetheless vowed to continue building support for her two-rink plan. “Our kids are in serious trouble,” she said. “I’m not going to stop trying to provide recreational activities so our youth can have self-esteem, feel like they are cared for and become productive members of our community.”
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.