Hockey association, officials debate rink upkeep

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— With hockey season right around the corner and an updated arena to skate in, Oak Creek town officials and the Oak Creek Hockey Association are wondering whose responsibility the rink is and how it will be maintained.

In a tense but polite discussion at a town meeting between Tim Corrigan, from the hockey association, and town trustees, both sides revealed the difficulties each would have maintaining the rink and the warming hut, mainly because of the costs.

"I gathered it is the town's desire for us to (come up) with some proposal of how we'd manage the rink," Corrigan said. "And I think that's a good idea."

However, costs of maintaining the rink and whose responsibility it is to do it needs to be worked out, he added.

"It seems we have had an ongoing conflict between what the town wants and what the hockey association wants," Corrigan said.

The conflict of responsibility stems from a conversation that happened years ago between representatives of the hockey association and the town board when the rink was first built. At that time, the hockey association said it would take responsibility of the upkeep, Town Trustee Mike Kien said. However, no agreements were ever made in writing.

He said he then remembers representatives of the hockey association coming to the Town Board claiming they didn't have enough volunteers to fulfill those responsibilities.

Corrigan wasn't involved during those conversations and was surprised they happened. If it they, he said there was no way the hockey association could have perceived that a rink framed with two-by-fours and flooded with water would have turned into the facility it is today.

Today, at least 50 children involved in the hockey program benefit from what Corrigan believes to be a $500,000 rink.

"The hockey association should be the group to manage it," he said. "But we're going to need to pay someone to get the work done."

That would be difficult. The "loose knit" group of volunteers of the hockey association has a hard enough time getting the rink cleared of snow, much less raising money to pay someone to maintain the building, Corrigan said.

He estimated $4,800 would have to be raised to pay someone to do the work part time at $10 an hour.

The responsibilities include opening and closing the warming hut, cleaning toilets, vacuuming floors, clearing snow from the ice and generally making sure everything runs smoothly at the rink.

"I think we need to run some concessions at the rink," Mayor Deb VanGundy said, offering a solution.

Corrigan said the hockey association has concessions at games, but it raises just enough money to pay the $36 it costs to hire referees.

In the past, the trustees and Corrigan debated the idea of renting the rink out to hockey clubs in Steamboat Springs to raise money. Corrigan said that wouldn't begin to pay the $4,800.

Other ideas were renting out skates and charging for a public skate time, both of which would need someone to supervise.

The town did pay someone last winter to do the upkeep. But both Kien and VanGundy insisted the town can't continue to absorb that cost.

Finding money to maintain an ice rink is a typical scenario for towns and small cities, said Jim Gregoire, the assistant manager at the Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs.

"It's really one of the most expensive playgrounds that a city can operate," he said.

Even an outdoor rink, such as Oak Creek's, which doesn't have to pay to cool the ice, won't be able to pull in enough revenue to cover the costs to maintain it.

Oak Creek has a vested interest in the rink, which is on town property, forking up thousands of dollars to help pay for recent upgrades.

"We will make this work," Corrigan said.

He agreed to return to the trustees in two weeks with a preliminary plan of how much responsibility the hockey association can take to maintain the rink.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206

or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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