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Ice rink's proponents preparing for next phase

Posted: July 20, 2012 - 1:13am

After Juneau Parks and Recreation staff gathered input from Treadwell Ice Arena users Wednesday evening, the process for a proposed second ice rink facility in Juneau is starting to come into focus.

The Alaska State Legislature appropriated a grant of $650,000 for the new facility in Dimond Park earlier this year, with the Juneau Community Foundation as the grant recipient. That state money is to be used for design work – but Eric Kueffner, president of the JCF’s board of directors, said design work cannot begin until his organization has a better sense of exactly where in Dimond Park the facility will be located.

“We can’t really design and plan construction of something unless we know where it’s going to be,” Kueffner said.

The JCF has been working with Parks and Recreation on finding an exact site.

“It appears, when you drive through, oh, there’s lots of land,” said Brent Fischer, Parks and Recreation director, of the Dimond Park area.

But Fischer said the search for a site is more complicated than that. He referred to the “jigsaw” of figuring out what land will be available if Thunder Mountain High School adds a new athletic field, or if the planned Dimond Park library is built and Parks and Recreation buildings have to be moved to a new location.

“The idea is to do it at Dimond Park because there’s already a lot of facilities there,” said Christopher Clark, chief of staff to Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, though he acknowledged the Dimond Park location also falls within Muñoz’s legislative district. Muñoz’s office has been particularly involved in the process, with Clark representing it at Wednesday’s meeting.

“There’s the need in the Valley, too,” Clark contended. “There’s very much a need out there to have the ice rink in a location that would also serve the population.”

While some participants in Wednesday’s meeting argued that adding a second sheet of ice in Douglas, where Treadwell is located, would be more cost-effective, Clark said the appropriation cannot be rerouted to a different location without legislative action.

“Right now, it is written for the Dimond Park area,” said Clark.

The cost of the project may have little direct bearing on Juneau residents. Fischer said he does not think there is appetite in the City and Borough of Juneau’s government to pay for it with city money.

“I think this is a nice thing that the Legislature, that Cathy (Muñoz) is putting forth,” Fischer said. “But I think that if the Legislature does not fund it, I very much doubt that the Assembly would.”

The CBJ could end up managing the facility, though, unless another administrator can be found. On Wednesday, Fischer told meeting participants that he had not been instructed that CBJ would operate and manage the rink, if it is built, but he left the possibility open.

While Kueffner said he does not care who ends up running the rink as long as it is well managed, he said, “My first thought is that the management of Treadwell, which I guess is Parks and Rec, can manage a new one.”

“It is a long process, and I know that if … it goes the route where they want the city to own the building, to operate and maintain it, there would have to be a public process,” Fischer said.

Originally, $520,000 was estimated for planning and design costs for the proposed new ice rink facility, according to Terry Harvey, who works in Muñoz’s office for part of the year. That figure was reached, he said, by taking 8 percent of the facility’s estimated construction cost of $6.5 million.

Harvey said he was then told that “10 percent is really much more realistic on the planning and design,” and $650,000 was appropriated for that phase of the project accordingly. The $520,000 figure was not changed on all documents, though, which he attributed to an “oversight.”

“That should have been changed to the $650,000 that wound up as that item in the budget,” said Harvey.

If planning and design does end up costing less than the $650,000 that has been appropriated, Clark said, “One of the options is to reappropriate (leftover funds) to the next phase of the project.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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