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Consultant says Janesville can’t support two ice sheets

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
July 9, 2010
— An ice arena consultant hired by the city doubts Janesville could support two sheets of ice at a new ice arena.

Otherwise, the costs of building a new ice arena versus renovating the old one are similar to estimates the city council has been working with.


The consultant’s report will go to the council Monday, and City Manager Eric Levitt suggests the council forward it to the ice arena committee. It would return to the council on Monday, Aug. 23.


The council in October agreed to donate land and give a private group $2 million for a new ice arena if the group could raise $2 million. The council agreed to chip in another $500,000 for a second sheet of ice if the group raised an additional $1 million.


Mark Robinson, a member of the group raising money and affiliated with the Janesville Youth Hockey Club, said group members so far have raised about $700,000, but fundraising efforts were put on hold until the consultant’s report was completed.


Levitt agreed after reviewing the consultant’s report that the best course appears to be giving the group the $2 million and using the current ice arena site for a new fire station, saving the city $1 million in land acquisition costs. Levitt initially had recommended renovating the old rink for about $1 million.


Levitt continues to recommend against spending city money for two sheets of ice. He doubts the city would ever be able to end its subsidy of an ice arena, even with two sheets of ice.


“I think there’s not enough activity based on an analysis to justify going to two sheets,” he said.


Building an arena with two sheets of ice would make ice time more expensive, which Levitt didn’t think the user groups would favor.


Risk Management Services, the largest operator of ice-skating facilities in the nation, wrote the report. The company based its recommendations on local research and its experience, according to the report.


Most user groups at the current facility are satisfied with their allotment of ice time and do not see a future need for additional ice, according to the report.


“As you are aware, ‘satisfied’ is a relative term with ice-rink user groups,” the report said. “Almost all groups everywhere in the country would like to have more prime-time ice available to them and usually at lower cost.”


The groups are not receptive to an increase in current fees, according to the report.


The use of a second sheet of ice would come mostly from customers switching to more desirable time slots, according to the report.


If a facility with two sheets of ice was built, the rates would have to increase to avoid an increase in the city subsidy. The cost could be $210 for an hour of ice time, up from the current rate of $164 for an hour in peak time.


The report also:


-- Agrees that renovating the current rink would cost about $1 million for basics repairs, including a new ice-making system and bleachers. The roof might also need repair, and skate racks are recommended in the rental room to increase workspace and better ventilate the skates.


-- Found that the arrangement with Wisconsin Hockey Partners, which runs the Janesville Jets, is working well at the current facility. The group has been a popular draw. Attendance probably would improve in a new and larger facility. However, the team has a number of ways to leave under the current contract. “If a new rink was to be built, we would recommend a revision of the existing contract with this group,” according to the report.


-- Recommends the city save $85,000 by overhauling the Zamboni rather than buying a new one for $100,000. The report estimates the city could get another 20 to 25 years from the Zamboni with the overhaul and a proper preventative maintenance program.



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