Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hailey rink donation put on ice

Anonymous donor promised $800,000

Express Staff Writer

Attorney Jim Laski told Hailey city officials Monday that an expected donation to complete an ice rink on city land has been delayed indefinitely. Express file photo

Hailey residents went out last spring and voted to support redevelopment of the city's rodeo grounds, thinking the 10-year tax increase would be matched by the generosity of an unnamed benefactor.

Now the city is waiting to see if the anonymous donor is good for his word.

Voters approved a $3.5 million bond measure for projects that includes a new rodeo arena, expansion of the skatepark and a new interpretive center. They also had the expectation that at least $800,000 was on its way from an anonymous donor to build a 28,000-square-foot ice rink next to the skatepark for the nonprofit group Hailey Ice.

But Jim Laski, attorney for Hailey Ice, told the Hailey City Council on Monday that the ice rink donation has been "delayed indefinitely," causing the organization to seek funding elsewhere to finish the partially completed project.

Hailey Ice has spent about $500,000 of $600,000 in funds collected over the past 10 years to build a concrete foundation and other work on the project. The estimated cost for final completion of a bare-bones ice rink is $1.4 million.

"This is nerve-wracking," Laski said. "But we still want to keep working with the donor. He says he's committed to completing the project."

As the May 25 bond vote approached last year, Laski said the anonymous donor was prepared to increase the size of his donation to $3.3 million, providing for a 38,153-square-foot, year-round recreation facility. The expanded version of the facility would be large enough to accommodate inline hockey, indoor soccer and tennis and basketball courts.

The ice rink was considered by supporters of the bond as an opportunity to increase recreational opportunities and generate economic activity by hosting hockey tournaments. It would be built on city property and belong to the city, but managed and operated by Hailey Ice.

Laski said in May that he was working to get the donation prior to the bond vote, but said later that the donor might also wait to see if Hailey voters supported the proposed $3.5 million tax increase before committing the funds.

Laski said Monday the donor had been expecting funds from a business venture to pay for the ice rink, but that the funds had been delayed "due to the economy." He said a sizable donation could still materialize.

"We were told that the donor was 100 percent committed," Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said. "If we had not had that commitment, maybe we wouldn't have authorized the ($3.5 million) rodeo bond."

Hailey resident Peter Lobb said that if the donation does not materialize now that both the rodeo project and ice rink have broken ground, the residents of Hailey will "have been snookered."

Councilwoman Martha Burke differed strongly with Haemmerle's view of the situation.

"The donor wanted to see how committed we are as a community to do this," Burke said. "This is a huge gift, something that the city couldn't possibly match or cover. We can't expect immediate gratification."

In other Hailey news:

( The council adopted an Emergency Operations Plan, written by Fire Chief Mike Chapman, that outlines procedures to follow in case of an earthquake, major fire or other disaster.

Tony Evans:

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