Delayed Springfield ice rink faces $1.5M funding gap

Springfield skating rink is the final piece of a decade-old parks plan.

Voters in 2001 approved a one-year tax to help pay for the rink, the last capital project on the district’s master plan, though some have questioned the rink’s financial viability.

Director LeAnn Castillo said NTPRD is in talks with an architect and engineer about the downtown ice rink project to make the best bid package to send out.

Bids were over budget two previous attempts.

Castillo said the $5 million budget originally planned on by NTPRD will increase to $7.7 million due to the passage of time and the rise in building costs.

“Right now, we have about a $1.5 million gap in funding,” she said.

Castillo said the district wants to bridge that gap through private donations and through work with partners.

“This is not something that would go to the taxpayers,” she said.

She said the district hopes to have the project out to bid in late summer with construction starting in late fall. Under that timetable, the rink would be operational in 2013.

The ice rink is the last part of the park district’s 10-year, $17 million capital campaign that included the construction of Splash Zone Family Aquatic Center and Carleton Davidson Stadium. About one-third of that $17 million came from a 2001 voter-approved one-year, 0.5-percent sales tax.

Despite concern by some about the viability of an ice rink in Springfield, Castillo is positive the venture would allow more residents to be involved in ice sports.

“Once we have it readily available, more people would be involved in it,” she said.

A business plan for the ice arena compiled in 2007 estimated that the rink could make a profit by the fifth year of operation, and Castillo said that business model is still being used by NTPRD.

The plan projects the arena will make money through public skating and programs, as well as hockey leagues, skating and hockey academies and camps.

Right now, the rink will be located on the site of the former Memorial Hall. Castillo said the district is discussing its options, including moving the location of the rink one block south to allow for additional parking.

The district asked the city commission in January 2011 to pass a parking variance allowing for diagonal parking in Memorial Place Alley, but that variance did not pass.

David McDargh, vice president of Ambience, a business located near the Memorial Hall site which has a loading area in the alleyway, said the business has no issues with the building of an ice rink nearby.

“It will clean the place up,” McDargh said.

Castillo said she has no knowledge of anyone approaching the park district to say the project is a bad idea.

“I know there have been some comments, but I don’t know of anyone who has come to us,” she said.

She added that NTPRD is hoping to provide a local amenity to people who would normally go to Kettering or Troy to ice skate.

“We’re trying to provide recreational opportunities,” she said. “It would create opportunities for new sports in our community.”

Castillo said construction could take nine to 11 months to complete.

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