Planning for rink, entryway coming soon |

Planning for rink, entryway coming soon

The ice rink at Snowmass Village Town Park was forced to close in late February after a long spell of warm weather, even after the town budgeted $50,000 for skates and ice maintenance.

The costs to the town ended up under budget, partially due to the short season but also because the Parks, Recreation and Trails Department didn’t purchase a skate sharpener this season, said Andy Worline, director of the department. However, the early closure might lend credence to the need for more long-term planning around the amenity, likely to be part of the entryway planning process expected to start this spring.

The rink was still skateable at times, such as late at night, but without a refrigeration system and without any shade structure, “it would almost be a losing battle every day” to keep the rink open, Worline said. Safety was the department’s primary concern.

The department spent about $6,500 in 2013 on ice skates, staff time, portable restrooms and snowplowing, Worline said. Town Public Works employees helped with the earthwork to level the grounds of the rodeo arena before opening, which cost more than $7,000 in staff time. That’s well below the $40,000 the town expected to spend in the first part of the season, although that budget included $11,620 for an ice sharpener.

“We just felt that we did not know what the demand was going to be, and we had other resources to get skates sharpened with the Aspen rink and stuff like that,” Worline said of the sharpener.

The Aspen Ice Garden also donated 25 pairs of skates to the Snowmass rink. The Snowmass Recreation Department then purchased about 30 to 40 pairs, mostly in kids sizes.

“So, we do have those now, and we’ll be able to provide those skates,” Worline said.

The recreation center rented 214 pairs of skates over the course of the season. About 85 to 90 percent of those rentals were over the holidays, Worline said.

As of Feb. 27, Worline hadn’t received all the bills for 2014 but estimated that the total expenditures would be about $9,000. The town had budgeted $14,775 for the latter half of the ice rink’s season.

The ice rink has been installed in the rodeo grounds every winter since 2009, and generally it’s maintained by a group of volunteers with some monetary help from the town. This year, those volunteers still helped and offered use of their equipment, but it was the first season that the town took the lead in operating it.

Worline said one of those volunteers, Jack Rafferty, is “the guy to thank for the ice.”

“We couldn’t have opened as early as we did and we couldn’t have maintained it as long as we did without his expertise,” Worline said. “It was a good partnership. I hope to continue working with that group. Hopefully we can figure something out long-term, and that’s obviously a council decision.”

Town staff members have said that, as long as the council is on board, the town will start a public process for long-term planning of the entryway this spring. Similar plans were drawn in the 1990s, but the desires and needs of the community have changed since then, Town Manager Gary Suiter said last month.

The town conducted a community survey last fall that asked several questions related to the entryway, including what respondents’ most desired improvements and uses of the rodeo arena were. The ice rink received the most votes, followed by a rodeo facility, multipurpose arena and pavilion or permanent performance space.

If the public and the council decide that they want a permanent ice rink in that area, Worline said he thinks it will need more infrastructure, such as a warming hut and a shade structure.

“The community obviously wants it. That’s what they said in the community survey,” Worline said. “I think it’s up to us to see how we can make something like this work.”

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