New rink to be put on ice? | AspenTimes.com

New rink to be put on ice?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

With a budget shortfall of 1.4 million dollars, the new Ice Rink may stay a dirt filled void as the pool and recreation center construction marches on. Daniel Bayer photo.

Construction work on the new ice rink at Iselin Park will come to a temporary halt next month unless the local citizens raising money for the facility come up with a new influx of contributions soon.

The Friends for the Aspen Sports and Recreation Complex have collected more than $5.8 million in donations and pledges, but need another $1.4 million to keep the project moving forward into the second phase of construction.

The Aspen City Council met behind closed doors with SPARC representatives on Monday, and then met alone with staffers to mull whether or not the city should tap its coffers and float the project a loan.

Ultimately, the council decided work on the rink will “pause” in mid-August if SPARC is no closer to its goal, said Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.

“It’s always difficult to say `no,'” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “It was our decision that it was necessary to pause.”

Between now and Aug. 15, the fund-raising group will be pressing hard to come up with the money it needs for phase 2, which includes a big component of the rink’s construction – installation of the refrigerated floor.

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“The last thing anybody wants, the city, SPARC or the community as a whole, is to see the construction delayed or slowed down,” said Matt Vickers, SPARC campaign coordinator. “It’s unfortunate that it may have to come to that.

“We’re hoping people respond to the urgency of the situation,” he said. “We need to get it raised, and we need to get it soon so we have no slowdown of construction.”

“Now is the time for people to step up,” Klanderud agreed. “I have tremendous optimism that SPARC will be able to raise sufficient funds to begin the next phase.”

SPARC is headed by a group of local citizens who offered to raise $8 million privately so Aspen would have a second sheet of ice to complement the overburdened Aspen Ice Garden.

The new NHL-sized rink will be part of the $17.6 million Aspen Recreation Complex now under construction at the park, located across Maroon Creek Road from the Aspen schools campus. It will also include two new swimming pools, a climbing tower and new Aspen Youth Center.

SPARC began its fund-raising campaign about two years ago, coming up with the initial $3.2 million the city required in order to start construction on the rink.

Now, phase I of the overall project is wrapping up with the completion of the exterior building.

The city has already done some phase 2 work on the rink and has ordered the needed mechanical equipment, according to Sadler. A subcontractor that will handle the highly specialized installation of the rink floor, with its network of refrigerated piping and precise cement overlay, is scheduled to begin work in mid-August.

“That’s a biggie – it’s a half-million bucks,” Sadler said of the floor work. If construction of the rink must halt for a while, it makes sense to stop before installation of the floor begins, he said. The subcontractor has already been notified that floor work may be put on hold.

While SPARC has been able to cover each of its quarterly bills since construction commenced in the spring of 2001, right now it does not have enough funds to meet its next payment, Vickers said.

Raising funds has been difficult in light of an economic downtown that was exacerbated by Sept. 11, he said. Nonetheless, SPARC is more than two-thirds of the way to its $8 million goal.

“To get to where we have so far is a real testament to the community,” Vickers said. “Virtually all of the money has been raised locally.”

It has been a testament to the efforts of SPARC, as well, Klanderud said. “There have been a few people out there really doing amazing work, and I commend them for that,” she said.

Construction of the Aspen Recreation Complex is expected to finish in February 2003, with a grand opening envisioned next spring, according to Sadler.

If work on the rink does not proceed, the rest of the facility will be able to open as scheduled, he said. The rink would remain a finished shell, to be completed later as funding allows.

A delay could result in increased material and labor costs that would force SPARC to raise even more money, Sadler added. “We sincerely hope that a community push will avert this delay,” he said.

If SPARC raises sufficient funds to have the rink floor installed, the rink could open before the final $1 million or so is raised to fund the finishing touches. The final phase includes furnishings such as lockers, restroom fixtures and the scoreboard.

There will be other restrooms elsewhere in the building.

“You could open it without lockers,” Sadler said.

Nonetheless, Sadler expressed confidence that SPARC will come up with the necessary contributions to finish the rink piece of the project on time.

“I really think, in my heart of hearts, it’s going to happen,” he said.

Hard-hat tours of the Aspen Recreation Complex are offered through SPARC each Wednesday at 4 p.m., and by the city on the first Friday of each month at 10 a.m. For more information on contributing to SPARC, contact Vickers at 948-5701.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com.]

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