Council members want to renegotiate the fundraising agreement for the Howelsen Ice Pavilion and showed a willingness to back the project with city dollars.
Despite a tepid fundraising effort, Steamboat Springs City Council says they are committed to helping build a second sheet of ice at Howelsen Ice Arena — even if it means the city needs to contribute its own funding to the project.
The city struck a deal with the Howelsen Ice Pavilion Committee a year ago that said the group would raise 100% of the funding to build the new ice sheet, which is estimated to cost about $6 million. But with that agreement set to expire at the end of the month and just 4% of the projected cost raised, prospects of another sheet of ice seemed to be melting.
Now clear they cannot raise all of the project funding on their own, the Howelsen Ice Pavilion Committee asked the city to match up to $3 million in donations on Tuesday in a renegotiated agreement that wouldn’t expire until May of 2025.
While it didn’t agree to all those terms on Tuesday, City Council signaled it wasn’t willing to let the project fall apart for a second time. Council directed city staff to start renegotiating the agreement over the coming months and showed a willingness to commit city funding this time around.
“We’re not going to allow this agreement to expire and leave it at that,” said Council member Steve Muntean. “I am tremendously optimistic that we can come up with some sort of win-win negotiation here to move this forward.”
The effort to build the second sheet of ice — a covered outdoor rink that would have ice roughly five months a year — dates back to 2018. While there was a $1 million donation and $700,000 in city accommodations tax dollars at the time, the effort ultimately stalled.
But after closing during the early stages of the pandemic, demand for ice time has roared back and the need for more ice has become more paramount. With support from various user groups that jostle for limited ice time at the rink, the group was optimistic it could raise enough money.
As of Tuesday, the group had raised $244,000 of the needed $6 million or just over 4% of the total. While they lacked enough funding, the group displayed their public backing by filling Council’s chambers with supporters that included many of the youth who are competing for limited ice time currently.
“Everyone’s doing everything they can, whether it’s $1 here or $10,” said Kerry Shea, chair of the Howelsen Ice Pavilion Committee. “We really would like to take and build on this momentum that we’ve seen over the past six months.”
Shea said one issue for donors is having enough confidence that the pavilion will be built in the end. One thing that would help, Shea said, would be getting financial support from the city.
“One of the biggest things is the fact that this is a city-owned asset, this is not a privately run facility,” Shea said.
Council didn’t give much indication of what it thought of the request for the city to match donations up to $3 million, though there appeared to be support for some kind of allocation.
“I wouldn’t want the agreement to expire and just have us walk away from that,” said Council member Joella West. “But to simply say yes we will give you a matching grant of up to $3 million without any further conversation makes me really uncertain.”
Council member Dakotah McGinlay suggested the city could use some of its accommodations tax dollars to support the project, though she noted other long-unfunded projects like Bear River Park would benefit from those dollars too.
To close the conversation, Council member Brian Swintek said he was tired of having conversations about projects like the ice pavilion only to not have enough funding. As a potential source of that funding, Swintek stressed council to explore a property tax dedicated to parks and recreation.
“I would love for us to explore a property tax for Parks and Rec so we have a dedicated funding source so we can invest in our locals,” Swintek said.
Council will direct parks and recreation staff how to proceed with new negotiations at an upcoming executive session. Shea said he hoped they could have a new deal in the next few months that would reset the fundraising deadline to May of 2025.
“I think giving us roughly another year to do that would give us a strong indication, especially if the city comes to the table with some funding,” Shea said.
Top Photo Caption: Kerry Shea, chair of the Howelsen Ice Pavilion Committee, presents to Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday as supporters for the project filled Council's chambers. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)