Planning for a second ice rink facility in the Mendenhall Valley is misguided and endangers the community built up around Treadwell Ice Arena, Douglas resident Robert Sewell told the Douglas Advisory Board Wednesday evening.
The Alaska State Legislature appropriated $650,000 earlier this year as a grant to the nonprofit Juneau Community Foundation, specifically for design work on a prospective new ice rink in Dimond Park.
But Sewell, who also spoke against a second facility at an Aug. 22 Treadwell user group meeting in the Mendenhall Valley Public Library, said he believes a Valley ice arena poses a “threat” to the Treadwell community.
“I think if it goes through, it will cut into revenues that go into Douglas,” Sewell told the board. “If it goes through, we won’t have the … public investment in infrastructure in this part of town, and it will undermine both the community that’s developing and, specifically, the winter sports community there at the rink. And I don’t think it’s in the public’s best interest. I also don’t think we can afford it.”
Rep. Cathy Muñoz (R-Juneau), who represents the Dimond Park area in the Alaska House of Representatives, was a key player in securing the appropriation.
“The ($650,000) shows up, and suddenly people are talking about building a Taj Mahal … out in the Valley,” said Sewell, reusing a term he had used at the Aug. 22 meeting to describe proposals for a high-end new facility. “No further conversation about over here. And I see, personally, that as a threat cutting into what’s going on with the Treadwell now.”
At previous Treadwell user group meetings this summer, proponents of a new Valley rink contended that a facility in Dimond Park would be more accessible and convenient for families. The proposed site adjacent to the Dimond Park Aquatic Center is within walking distance of Riverbend Elementary School and Thunder Mountain High School, and the Valley is considered Juneau’s population center.
For his part, Sewell said Dimond Park has received a disproportionate amount of investment already.
“There’s, as far as I can count, at least four major public investments in that area,” said Sewell. “What has Douglas gotten out of it? Nothing.”
Sewell, who referred to Treadwell’s cost recovery of about 51 cents to the dollar, also said he does not think Juneau can afford to run a second rink.
“I personally can’t see why we’re supposed to, as a city, have two Zambonis (ice resurfacers), two staffing patterns, two cooling systems, two heating systems — I mean, it starts running on you,” Sewell argued.
The City and Borough of Juneau has neither committed to funding construction of a rink nor operating one if it is built. However, the JCF has previously indicated that it does not intend to be the long-term operator for a new facility.
While Sewell said he thinks Juneau does need a second sheet of ice, he suggested it be built as an add-on to Treadwell.
Several members of the board nodded as Sewell spoke. After he finished his presentation, board member Adam Garner concurred with the concerns Sewell expressed over a new rink drawing people away from Treadwell to the Valley.
“What’s going to happen with this is if they build down there, Treadwell’s going to be just an overflow,” Garner said.
Chairman John Delgado thanked Sewell for coming to the meeting at the Douglas Public Library.
“You’ve opened my eyes,” Delgado told Sewell. “I’d like to investigate it further. And as a board, I’d like to investigate it further.”
“I agree,” said board member Marcheta Moulton.
Sewell said he is organizing a Sept. 26 public meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the library in Douglas to discuss a second sheet of ice for Treadwell. He framed it as something of a counterweight to the meetings focusing on the Dimond Park design proposal for which the Legislature appropriated $650,000.
“I, personally, am sick of the thing being pitched in the public as, ‘Well, of course it’s going in the Valley because Muñoz came up with $650 Gs to do the planning for the Valley,’” said Sewell. “So I figure that there needs to be some airing of the alternative view.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at email@example.com.