Town recommits funds to the project
With a new redesign, a more concrete timeline, and $1.7 million in community funding, the East River Skating Association’s ice rink is one stride closer to becoming a reality, and with a renewed commitment from the Town of Crested Butte the sports complex could open as soon as next winter.
During a regular Town Council meeting on Monday, November 5, East River Skating Association board member John Mortell reported the association was prepared to begin the first phase of construction of the ice rink as long as the Town’s donation of $350,000 for infrastructure was still in place.
Concerns about whether the Town would allocate the funds again emerged after the project stalled earlier this year and following reports of a tight Town budget.
But during a special budget meeting on Monday, November 12, the Town Council renewed its commitment to the project, allocating $100,000 and putting $250,000 in reserves. As a stipulation to the donation, the Council requested a memorandum of understanding, a non-contractual agreement, with East River be created prior to the release of the $250,000.
According to Town Council member Bill Coburn, the $100,000 will be used to pay for “soft costs” of infrastructure, including a wetlands permit, an updated traffic study and a request for proposal for a final design of the rink. The remaining $250,000 will be used for installing electricity, and sewer and water lines.
Town manager Susan Parker said allocating the funds in this manner would allow the association to make decisions without having to appear in front of the Town Council every time.
Combined efforts between the Town and the East River Skating Association to build an indoor ice rink within the town began in late 2005 when the Town Council designated a site for the facility, just south of the Crested Butte Community School near Highway 135. The East River Skating Association began in 2003, replacing the former Crested Butte Ice organization.
Mortell reported phase one of the ice rink—now referred to as the Crested Butte sports complex—will include construction of the ice rink portion of the campus, including two bathrooms and the facility’s entrance.
Phase two of the project will include installing a refrigeration system, locker rooms, storage room, fire system, and additional bathrooms.
The conceptual drawing of the building also includes a multipurpose room, recreation gym and additional storage. A timeline for the additions had not yet been finalized, Mortell said. He envisions the additional rooms being used for activities such as indoor soccer, yoga or a variety of other activities.
“It’s a multipurpose facility that could spread out and provide other uses in the future that are desperately needed in this town,” Mortell said.
Not only would the facility provide space for indoor activities, Mortell said; the association anticipates the facility quickly expanding from a 16-week hockey season to a 22-week hockey season. “We anticipate the building being used from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day,” Mortell added.
Construction costs of the project have been estimated as high as $4 million. Mortell said East River has been working with the developers of the Gunnison ice rink and believes the construction costs could be less than $2 million.
Mortell also reported the association received a bid from North Carolina-based U.S. Builders for a metal building for only $353,000—almost $1 million less than the estimate from Ankeny Kell Architects.
“The estimate by AKA is so much higher than Gunnison’s estimate, because they are giving us a Cadillac—we don’t necessarily need the Cadillac,” Mortell said.
“We could keep hiring company after company to estimate the cost, but I think we are moving in the right direction with the information we have,” Mortell said.
In addition to the construction costs, Mortell also reported annual operating costs would be $118,716. However, estimates provided by Crested Butte Parks and Recreation director Bob Piccaro for employee costs put the figure closer to $222,650. Mortell told the council the association would use Piccaro’s estimates to avoid underestimating the facility’s cost.
Mortell also reported the facility would likely experience a $11,000 deficit, despite the fact that hockey league costs would double in the new facility. However, Mortell said keeping prices reasonable for youth hockey was important.
“We’re dedicated to keeping our prices low so that no kid is left behind, something we know we can take care of by just getting funding for it,” Mortell said.
Mortell said the association was looking into grants and possibly selling the naming rights of the facility to raise funds. Although Mortell could not give specific details about donors, he said the majority of the private donors lived outside of the Town. The association has $1.7 million in funds to date.
During the presentation given on Monday, November 5, Town Council member Ron Chlipala asked Town staff if the facility was needed. Piccaro said a facility with a roof and predictable ice time would definitely help the Town’s growing hockey programs.
“Do I think we need to improve our ice situation? You bet,” Piccaro said.
Crested Butte mayor Alan Bernholtz said he was pleased the facility was going to be year-round and that decision showed commitment to the success of the project.
Town Council member Margot Levy asked whether doubling the fees would discourage participation. Mortell said the majority of people he talked to would pay more for a longer guaranteed season.
Bernholtz added that an indoor facility was a long time coming, saying “… having a longer season, and good ice is good for the community.” Chlipala agreed and said, “We hear from everyone, and we know it’s needed—we really know it’s needed.”