Ice rink’s future may be left out in cold
Glenwood Springs would find itself on thin ice with a state agency if it agreed to pursue a goal of skating rink supporters to turn the facility into a year-round operation.Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), which contributed $175,000 to construction of the rink, would want that money refunded if the city ever walled in the facility.GOCO’s position is disappointing to Peter Sharpe, who led the original push to build the rink. Located outside the city Community Center, it has a roof to protect it from the sun, but no walls. That limits it to operating during the colder months of the year.Sharpe, who owns the SharpEdge skating store in downtown Glenwood Springs, thinks there’s enough demand to justify fully enclosing the facility and operating it year-round.”It would be wonderful for the community,” he said.”People talk to me all the time in my store about ‘gee whiz, what if we had this summer thing going?”A 1999 grant contract with the city specified that the rink would be an outside facility. Great Outdoors Colorado funds park, wildlife, river, trail and open space needs with state lottery revenues.Sharpe had heard rumors that GOCO might be willing to waive the grant restriction.”The belief I’ve had all along is that GOCO doesn’t want to be the bad guy if the community wants to enclose (the rink),” he said.Leon Kuhn, the city’s parks and recreation director, also had heard that GOCO might let the city off the hook. But after being asked about the matter by the Post Independent this week, he received confirmation from GOCO that it wouldn’t budge on the matter.A GOCO spokesman reiterated the agency’s position in an interview Wednesday.”We’re Great Outdoors Colorado. Indoors facilities are not what we do,” said Nate Forst, communications coordinator for GOCO.Sharpe doesn’t think GOCO’s position should stand in the way of the city looking into making the rink a year-round facility.”Even if GOCO made the city pay the money back it would be worth it because it’s not that much,” he said.The grant paid for only a minor portion of the rink’s original cost, he said. He thinks paying it back wouldn’t be too hard, especially if the city were allowed to reimburse the state over a few years.The rink generates good revenue for the city, Sharpe said.”If they pushed the summer programming once they get the walls in I think they can do well,” he said.Kuhn said the rink is still a subsidized operation, although it recovers 87 percent of those costs through revenues. But he doesn’t think the city can come up with the money to pay back GOCO, particularly if it charges interest as well.Even if GOCO would waive its requirement, Kuhn has his doubts about a rink operating successfully year-round. He believes people are more interested in other activities in the summer, and that the city instead would only extend the winter skating season if it walled in the facility.But Sharpe thinks the rink could be used for summer camps, high-altitude National Hockey League training and other activities.”They do this all the time in other places, so why not here?” he said.He said local hockey players drive to rinks in other counties to play when they can’t skate in Glenwood Springs.Sharpe said he hadn’t been aware at the time the grant was made that it prevented the rink from being enclosed later. He thinks it would be harder to enclose the outdoor facility than it would have been to have built an indoor one to begin with.He said he hasn’t heard any estimates of what walling in the structure might cost.The city is planning several public meetings next week as part of a parks and recreation master planning process and Sharpe plans to attend and urge the city to look into making the rink year-round.Kuhn said a priority for now is putting in proper locker room facilities, including changing areas for teams.”I think if we looked at that and expanded that, that would be a major improvement to the rink,” he said.Sharpe supports that idea. He said trailers were brought in for use as locker rooms this winter.”The locker room situation is ugly, at best,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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