ALAMOSA — By January Alamosa will have a new and improved ice rink, which will also serve as a multipurpose pavilion.
The Alamosa city council on Wednesday unanimously approved a negotiated bid with Alcon Construction for $2,560,907, which will provide a partially enclosed space for an ice rink in winter and other venues in the remaining months. The council approved an option that included add-in alternates for bathrooms and locker rooms.
The total project will cost $2,890,407, with expenses beyond the contract with Alcon including parking expansion at the site located near the city’s recreation center. Other project costs not included in Alcon’s bid include dasher boards, utility extensions, spectator seating and architectural costs, according to Alamosa City Public Works Director Pat Steenburg.
“This has been a long process,” said Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks who recounted the history of the project. She said the city’s ice rink at Carroll Park was failing and unsafe, and the city would either have to invest in improvements at the current site — a site that could only guarantee three weeks of good ice — or build a facility with a chiller that could provide five months of ice.
She said estimates for the project changed over time, with the city’s investment increasing as estimates went up. The city also received about $610,000 in grants and about $22,000 from 14 local businesses, Brooks added.
Alamosa will see some return on its investment, Brooks said, because the new ice rink will attract hockey tournaments that will bring visitors and revenue to Alamosa, which will be especially welcome during the slower winter months. She said the estimated economic impact of two league hockey tournaments is about $381,000.
Brooks added that this facility would mean a great deal to community members who will use it for ice skating and ice hockey as well as a multitude of other uses.
Steenburg reminded the council that it gave staff approval to design the facility, and the city was fortunate to get a bid from a local firm, Alcon Construction, the only bidder.
Working with Alcon, staff was able to get the bid price down to the funding level the council approved, which would include a shell, chiller, rink and storage for equipment such as the Zamboni, for a base bid of $2.35 million.
Working further with Alcon to make cost saving changes, staff was able to get the base bid down to $2.1 million, Steenburg said.
The city staff asked Alcon to bid on three additional alternatives: 1) bathrooms; 2) locker rooms; and 3) concession stand, skate rental area.
Staff recommended the council go with an option that included the base bid, bathrooms and locker rooms, which is the direction the council decided to go. The council could have opted to include all alternatives for a bid amount of $2.89 million to Alcon alone and a total project cost of $3.2 million, an option the city council did not take.
Brooks said by repurposing one of the locker rooms for a concession/rental area, the facility would still have four locker rooms.
Councilman Jan Vigil said a facility like this must have bathrooms and lockers, and he had pushed for those options to be presented. He added that he also had said if the project went over $2.5 million, he would not go for it. He clarified during the Wednesday council meeting that what he meant was he would not be in favor of the city paying more than $2.5 million out of pocket, but he would support the $2.8 million total for the project because of grants and other donations that would help pay for it.
Vigil agreed with a statement made by business owner Ruthie Brown during the public comment portion of the meeting that if the city built this facility, the ice hockey program should be accessible to all children, regardless of their ability to pay.
Vigil also said he saw many benefits from this facility in addition to the hockey program.
Councilman Michael Stefano agreed with Vigil “it would be pretty useless to build this without bathrooms and lockers.”
He added that he had been in favor of this project from the beginning because it would benefit area youth.
“I am excited for it,” he said.
Stefano added, “I agree with Ruthie Brown this should be a facility for all kids whether they can afford it or not.”
Councilor Kristina Daniel also agreed and added that she believed the city’s park/recreation staff did a fantastic job of making sure city programs were accessible.
Daniel said she has struggled with the amount this facility was going to cost the city but supported the option recommended by staff. She said she had heard from community members who supported this project, and that input influenced her decision.
Also understanding that the city could finance this project with projected revenues in the recreation fund, “I am much more comfortable with this project than I was,” Daniel said.
Brooks said if the city had to finance part of this project, it would only be for about four years.
Daniel said she appreciated Steenburg and Brooks working to bring the bid down.
Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley has also supported this project from the beginning, she said.
“I envisioned from the beginning … this was going to be something for all people,” she said.
Hensley said she agreed with Brown 100 percent that all youth should have access to this facility. She recounted when she first moved here about 20 years ago as a single mom with low income raising two children in Del Norte and how it meant so much to her that her children had the opportunity to go skiing at Wolf Creek because of partnerships with the school district, community and the ski area.
“There’s no way I could afford to have my kids go skiing but for this partnership,” she said.
She said she could see the same type of partnership with the skating rink here.
Hensley added that she hoped to see uses such as roller skating in this facility as well.
Hensley, now a marketing professor at Adams State, has performed economic impact analyses for different events and organizations in the past. She said she believed the economic impact numbers Brooks presented would be exceeded, and she was excited for this economic opportunity for Alamosa.
Councilman Ty Coleman said this facility will not only be a big deal for Alamosa but “huge for the San Luis Valley because now people from all around the San Luis Valley will have an opportunity to come to Alamosa and utilize our facilities.”
Coleman said economically this facility will benefit Alamosa by bringing in visitors for tournaments. Even before it is built, however, it will benefit local residents who are employed by Alcon and in turn benefit the Valley as those employees spend money in the communities where they live.
Coleman added that he had watched the local hockey team play, and they are currently at a disadvantage because the ice rink in Alamosa is smaller than regulation size, so when they would go to other rinks to compete, they have to adjust. The new rink will be regulation size, he said.
Also, with a longer season, the teams here will have more than a month to play, Coleman said.
He agreed with the rest of council that bathrooms and lockers were essential to the new facility.
Councilman Charles Griego said he had always supported the idea but had been concerned about the cost, especially the fluctuations in estimates presented to council. He thanked Brooks and Steenburg for bringing the numbers down.
“Staff found a way to make this thing happen financially,” added Mayor Josef Lucero.
That had been the concern of council, he added.
“Moving Alamosa forward requires faith, requires courage and requires vision,” he said.
When faced with facilities like this that needed replaced, “kicking the can down the road is not going to help us,” Lucero added. “If we don’t do it now it’s going to cost us more in the future … At the present time we have a package that is do-able.”
Lucero said this is a facility that will last many years and benefit generations to come.
Steenburg said with the contract approved with Alcon, the chiller and building infrastructure can be ordered.
The city’s goal is to have the facility completed and operational by December 31.
“I am looking forward to an awesome New Year’s party,” Hensley said.
Robert Pickett, who used to be the president of the SLV Youth Hockey Association, thanked the city council and staff for supporting this project. He said the ice hockey program has grown over the years, and the common denominator of success has been the city council’s support. The city found ways to meet the group’s needs whether it was for lights, a Zamboni or a shed for the Zamboni, Pickett said.
“The things that happened in the past have all been positive,” he said. “Thanks to you guys for that.”
The support from the City of Alamosa and the personal interaction city councilors have in the community is not something seen in other cities, he added.
“I am humbled every time I talk to you guys how much ownership you take not only in this project but the entire city,” he said.