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Prospect of 2nd sheet of ice melting away with increased cost

Hockey players exit the ice in Howelsen Ice Arena in September 2016.
File photo

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Howelsen Hill Ice Arena might not get a second sheet of ice after the estimated cost of the project rose from $3.2 million in early July to $4.43 million.

The Steamboat Springs City Council granted the project a stay of execution at its Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting by tabling a decision to cancel the project until council members had more information.

The proposed addition would be a multi-sport arena in the summer and a second sheet of ice in the winter built in a pavilion adjacent to the current arena.

Council approved initial construction on a pavilion adjacent to the arena that will eventually hold a second sheet of ice. A steel shelter will be built next to the existing arena building by the end of the year. The pavilion will have a modular bathroom and locker room.

The cost increase more than doubles the funding gap for the project. On July 3, the group planning to fundraise for the expanded arena expected to raise an additional $602,000. Now, the project needs an additional $1.9 million.

So far, the city has designated $900,000 of funds from 2A accommodations tax revenue to the project. Michael and Sara Craig-Scheckman pledged a $1 million contribution. Other private donors have also given about $600,000.

“I can say, too, that the Craig-Sheckmans were definitely interested in having a buildable, actionable property,” said Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter. “They did not want something that got halfway built with their name on it and stood there while they were holding bake sales trying to raise funds to buy refrigeration equipment.”

Alan Lind, city director of general services, said the increase in cost comes down to four factors. The cost of labor and material has escalated, and when the arena was last discussed at a council meeting, designs for the building were only about halfway done. As those have been finished, the cost of building them rose.

The memo of understanding signed with the Craig-Sheckmans says that construction on the first phase of the arena must begin this year.

Should council decide to cancel the project, the $332,000 that has already been spent on the project would become sunken costs. The project would also lose $1.6 million in private donations.

“A lot of people put a lot of work into it up until this point, and there still is a need,” said Kerry Shea, Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey development director.

Council took two votes on the ice arena.

The first, to completely cancel the project, was rejected 4-3, with council members Scott Ford, Kathi Meyer and Sonja Macys voting in support of canceling the project. The council members who opposed the motion explained that they did so because they wanted more information before making a final decision.

Council unanimously approved a motion made by council member Heather Sloop to table the decision. The motion stipulated that city staff reach out to the Craig-Sheckmans to see if the couple would be willing to postpone construction until the project is fully funded. It also called for a review of operational impacts and the project’s budget for accuracy after concerns were raised that some line items were counted twice.

Under the motion, the fundraising committee must fill any fundraising gaps remaining on the project.

Shea said it was prudent for council to ensure that the budget and scope of the project were accurate, though he had hoped to advance the project.

“There still is very much a need,” he said. “Our group and I think the community overall is still poised to try to get this figured out one way or the other. Sometimes, it’s a couple steps forward and a couple steps back, but we’re still engaged to try to get it all figured out.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.


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