Plan for new ice arena dies

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Friday, February 11, 2011
— Private fundraising efforts to build a new ice arena have failed, and the city council Monday could decide how much it wants to spend to renovate the existing facility.

Suggested options for renovations range from $1 million to $3 million, with the least expensive option replacing only the necessities and the most expensive including other amenities.

Renovations could begin in spring 2012 and end the following fall.

In a memo, City Manager Eric Levitt confirmed that a private fundraising group charged with raising $1.5 million toward a new ice arena was unable to come up with the money. If it had, the city council had promised $2 million for the project.

Mark Robinson, spokesman for the private group, could not be reached Thursday for comment.

The council, which also offered land for the facility on the south side, extended the deadline once. Some members of the fundraising group said they didn't favor the south side location.

Robinson recently said the group was working to buy and remodel an empty building near Target on the city's north side. The group apparently could not raise enough money for that option, either.

The council said that if the group raised $1.5 million its own, the city would give $2 million because that is what it likely would spend on renovations at the current facility and for land for a new fire station.

The fire station could be built on the site of the current ice arena on Beloit Avenue if the arena were moved, saving $1 million.

In his memo, Levitt asked council members to decide how much they want to spend on the current facility, which is more than 30 years old. Two major elements of the arena—the ice-making machinery and the roof—need replacement.

Below are the three options:

-- Basic: $1 million to $1.3 million—Mechanical and structural improvements include repair or replacement of the ice-making system, the roof, fire doors, fire suppression system, lights, boiler, and dehumidification system and south block wall.

This option improves the basic operations, but not amenities. This level is best if the city builds a new facility in the next 10 years, Levitt said. It also leaves $500,000 to buy property for the fire station.

-- Intermediate: $1.3 million to $1.75 million—This includes the basic elements of the basic plan in addition to expanding to provide additional locker, restroom and shower facilities. The improvements would benefit users of the facility. The city could pay for the improvements by outside funding or by using money that could be spent to buy property for the fire station.

-- Long-term: $2.4 million to $3 million—This includes everything in the basic and intermediate plans plus expanded seating, parking and restrooms for increased capacity and expanded program and storage space. This is the best option only if the city plans to use the facility for at least 10 years, Levitt said. This option likely would mean the city would have to borrow more money, Levitt said.

Levitt suggests the council bid the basic option but ask for alternative bids for the other two options to evaluate pricing. However, he stressed that the council make clear to user groups the amount of money it is willing to spend.

The city should hire a firm to design the improvements and then create a committee of users groups to work with the city on the design, Levitt said.

If the arena's mechanics fail in the interim, repairs could be made with the design in mind, Levitt said.

Last updated: 4:20 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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