Town hockey facility on ice
The future of a proposed public ice rink in Crested Butte is uncertain this week, after a $1 million donor announced he’d use his money to build a private facility in the Larkspur subdivision instead.
The donor, developer Gary Garland, says he’s in negotiations to partner with the Crested Butte Academy, a private school based in Mt. Crested Butte, to operate the year-round ice facility in the subdivision, which he developed.
Garland says the Crested Butte Academy, which is affiliated with IMG Academies, hopes to introduce a new hockey program to attract student athletes from across the United States. “It will be another component of the Crested Butte Academy,” Garland says.
Academy head of school Graham Frey says the goal is to have 60 full-time student hockey players. “Hockey, for me, is a natural complement to the other sports we do…if you can attract good coaching, you can attract kids,” he says.
Garland hopes to go ahead with plans to build a $2.5 million facility this summer, to be open in fall of 2008 in Larkspur, just south of Crested Butte near Skyland. However, that is totally contingent on finding private financing for the project, which may take time to secure, according to Garland.
With his own $1 million donation, Garland and his partners are seeking to finance another $1.5 million to pay for the facility.
Garland is applying to Gunnison County to amend his Larkspur subdivision plan, which already allows for a recreation use within it but not an ice rink. The proposed 40,000-square-foot ice facility would replace the previously approved 39,000-square-foot health club, tennis courts and pool facility.
The rink facility will also include an indoor skateboarding facility and “gravity center.”
Garland’s decision to pursue a partnership with the Academy has left the East River Skating Association and the Town of Crested Butte upset.
“It’s a big disappointment,” says Crested Butte mayor pro-tem Leah Williams. “The town has a lot that it can bring to the table and that’s been ignored… I’m afraid the best interest of citizens has not been taken into consideration.”
For the past two years, the East River Skating Association has relied on Garland’s donation to build its own public ice rink facility, which would eventually be turned over to the town of Crested Butte to operate.
The Crested Butte Town Council set aside public land near the Crested Butte Community School for the ice facility and budgeted $350,000 in 2008 toward the project.
Last month, the Association and the Town of Crested Butte tentatively reached an agreement on the price and scope of services for the design work with an architecture firm.
Now, Skating Association founder Bill Coburn says the group is trying to figure out what to do in light of the $1 million loss.
He says the Association has raised its own money for a facility and now faces two long-term alternatives—support the town in improving the existing ice sheet at Big Mine Park or forge ahead over time with a new facility near the Community School.
Coburn says the East River Skating Association still feels the site near the Crested Butte Community School works best for a community rink. “There were all these reasons in the (Crested Butte Arts and Recreation) process over why this is the best place,” he said, noting the town is attempting to build a sports campus. The town’s plans include an adjacent recreation center with a gymnasium and other amenities. “It could be used for indoor soccer, baseball, track, etc.,” he says.
In addition, Coburn says there is some concern that Garland’s proposed facility won’t be available to the town’s public hockey program at appropriate times and it will be priced too high over time for local residents to use.
Garland says he intends to keep the prices manageable and says the Academy’s schedule shouldn’t conflict terribly with public use.
“The beauty of this is that the Academy only needs it from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.” Garland says. “When the other kids are getting out of school, the Academy is finished.”
Frey also notes that the facility will provide the area with a year-round ice sheet—and a venue for high-level hockey. “It will be great for the community because we’ll have covered ice,” he says.
He says that the Academy and Garland share a vision of having year-round ice for their program that’s available to the public. “I think our goals are the same,” Frey says. “We want to create the best possible facility for kids in the community to play hockey.”
Garland also says his proposed rink doesn’t necessarily conflict with the town’s plans to build a rink, which he says are years from completion due to skyrocketing costs. “It’s going to be a $5 million to $7 million facility,” he says. “My million, whether it comes or goes, is irrelevant.”
Specifically, Garland notes the Town Council’s will to see their ice rink facility be environmentally conscious and possibly LEED-certified, an energy conservation award that could add dollars to the rink’s initial price-tag.
LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.
While the town fundraises for its rink, Garland says, area skaters can use the Larkspur facility.
Coburn says Garland’s argument falls short, with the Town and Skating Association planning for a two-phased build with a $3.5 million price tag. In addition, Coburn, who served on Town Council from 2003 to 2007, says the Town has been clear that it wanted a “green” building.
“From day one, the town has said they wanted a rink built as environmentally conscious as feasible,” Coburn says. “That’s been their stance from day one.”
Garland acknowledges that the decision to use his donation for a private ice rink may upset some people. But he says he wants to see a facility built. “The town has said they wanted to do it for 15 years, and it hasn’t happened,” he says. “Frankly I’m tired of waiting… This is a classic snooze and lose situation.”
Crested Butte Parks and Recreation director Bob Piccaro hopes the East River Skating Association will support the town in improving the Big Mine Park rink. “I think at this stage of the game it would behoove us, no matter what happens with other people’s visions and facilities, for the town to improve its existing facility,” Piccaro says.
He points out there have been plans for new rinks for more than a decade but they haven’t come to fruition. “We all have great intentions and notions but it hasn’t been done and our rink is what it is,” Piccaro says.
In addition, Piccaro says, the town has always been concerned about how much it would cost to run an indoor rink. Improving the current rink would take out some of the guesswork, he says. “We all know what it costs us now to run this rink,” he says. “If we roofed it, we would immediately reduce labor from snow issues; we could play throughout the day; and we would have a higher probability of having good ice.” However, the ultimate decision will come before the Town Council.
For now, Coburn says the Association is in a wait and see period. “We’re waiting to see if Gary (Garland) can pull this off and what the terms for the town program are going to be,” he says.
Williams agrees it’s premature to make any decisions. “Gary and IMG have taken the ball into their court,” she says. “Let’s see what they come up with.”