Rink back on track | AspenTimes.com

Rink back on track

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

If Aspenites step up to the tune of $1 million in the next seven weeks, the ice rink at the new Aspen Recreation Center will open on schedule with the rest of the facility.

With a fund drive for the rink still short of its goal and the city poised to halt construction and leave the rink unfinished, one of the facility’s benefactors has come forward with a second sizable contribution in the form of a challenge grant to get it done.

The latest turn of events was announced Tuesday amid ongoing construction of the ARC along Maroon Creek Road.

“The opportunity is there right now to get it done,” said Matt Vickers, campaign coordinator for the Friends for the Aspen Sports and Recreation Complex, or SPARC. The group is working to raise $8 million to build the rink.

SPARC’s goal is actually $8.6 million, including $600,000 to cover the costs of conducting its capital campaign. The privately funded rink is part of an $18 million complex at Iselin Park that will include two new swimming pools, a climbing wall and new Aspen Youth Center. The city and youth center are financing the rest of the project.

With word out that the rink would not be ready to open along with the rest of the facility next March, SPARC held a donor summit last week, bringing together the key contributors to the project.

“It was an amazing display of community spirit,” Vickers said.

Local resident Jonathan Lewis, who had already committed $1 million to the campaign, offered a challenge grant on behalf of his family.

Lewis and his family’s foundations pledged another $800,000 on the condition that others gathered at the summit pony up another $200,000 and that SPARC raise the final $1 million by Feb. 1, 2003. Three families who have already contributed rose to Lewis’ challenge to provide the additional $200,000.

After meeting behind closed doors with SPARC representatives Monday, the City Council agreed to complete construction of the rink. Here’s the catch: It won’t open until it’s paid for.

“It was a huge vote of confidence from the city,” Vickers said.

Now, he said, it’s up to Aspen as a whole to “step up, dig deep and finish this thing off.”

So far, a long list of individuals and families have pledged generously to make the ice rink happen, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud.

“There are a lot more people that I believe need to contribute,” she said. “The community as a whole really hasn’t been approached to step up and be a part of this facility.”

It will be approached now, Vickers said.

SPARC is about to launch a grass-roots campaign with a direct-mail effort to tap area residents for contributions.

In addition, SPARC will be selling naming rights to various components of the building. A $5,000 donation will buy the right to put one’s name, or someone else’s, on any of 12 to 15 park benches that will be placed on the grounds around the ARC.

Naming privileges on arena seats in the rink will go for $1,000 (with a discount for the purchase of multiple seats), and donors may purchase the rights to a rink locker for five to 10 years for $5,000 to $10,000.

If SPARC lines up $1 million worth of pledges by Feb. 1, it can turn to Alpine Bank for a bridge loan that will provide the necessary funds up front. The bank offered to cover $2.7 million worth of pledges in September; SPARC has not yet made use of that option, Vickers said. A bridge loan would entail financing costs, he noted.

So far, the city has been stepping up to cover pledges that are coming in over time to SPARC so that construction of the rink can continue.

In all, the group has raised $7.6 million in contributions and pledges, including about $2.3 million that has already been turned over to the city.

Jonathan Lewis, an enthusiastic hockey player before he suffered a neck injury while he was snowboarding a couple of years ago, said he toured the ARC with other members of his family during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The family was excited to do something more to ensure the rink’s timely completion, he said.

The opportunities presented by having the swimming pools and ice rink, playing fields, nordic links, youth center, Aspen schools campus and Aspen Ski and Snowboard Club headquarters all located in a concentrated area are “incredible,” Lewis said.

“If I’d had a facility like that when I was a kid, it probably would have kept me out of a lot of trouble,” he said.

His family’s $800,000 grant, contingent upon the community coming up with the last $1 million, offers an appropriate challenge to wrap up the fund-raising campaign, Lewis said.

“It’s the right way for the project to be finished. It’s a community project,” he said.

Contributions to SPARC can be made at Alpine Bank, or call Vickers at 948-5701.

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

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