Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hailey rink construction on hold

Scale of project unknown, donor remains anonymous


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Hailey Ice President Ron Fairfax stands at Roberta McKercher Park ice rink in Hailey. Fairfax has worked for 10 years to get a refrigerated ice rink built in Hailey. Photo by Willy Cook

Grand plans for a four-season ice rink and recreational facility at the Hailey rodeo grounds may not materialize as expected.

Hailey Ice officials told the City Council last week that an expected donation, up to about $3.3 million, will be delayed indefinitely, causing many to wonder what will be built on the high-profile site, and when.

About $500,000 of the $600,000 in Hailey Ice's cash reserves has been spent on concrete perimeter foundations for a covered ice rink, but as of last week there are no definite plans to complete the rink.

Hailey Ice attorney Jim Laski said the nonprofit organization has "in the neighborhood of $100,000" left to complete the rink.

A refrigerated rink could cost from $1.4 million to $3.5 million, depending on the size and quality of the finished product.

"We've been waiting 10 years to get this rink and we can wait another year if we need to," Laski said in an interview.

He said Hailey Ice was expecting a first installment of $500,000 by now from an anonymous donor, much of which would have been used to order structural steel to support a roof over the rink.

"We're not going to make the fall 2011 deadline for completion," Laski said. "Every day we wait to order the steel is another day that delays the project."

Last May, just before Hailey voters went to the polls to support a $3.5 million bond initiative to redevelop the rodeo grounds arena, skatepark and visitor center, Laski said publicly that an anonymous donor was committed to spend an undetermined amount of money to build the ice rink.

As the May 25 bond vote approached last year, Laski said the anonymous donor was prepared to increase the size of his donation to cover the cost of 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. Supporters said the rink would provide an economic stimulus for Hailey by hosting regional hockey tournaments.

City Attorney Ned Williamson said in an interview Monday that just prior to the vote on the rodeo bond, Hailey Ice said the donor was prepared to increase his donation "considerably."

"It was large enough to change it to a state-of-the-art development," Williamson said.

Hailey Ice board President Ron Fairfax said Monday that the donor only provided a verbal agreement to fund the rink. He also said the donation was never contingent on Hailey voters passing a bond to redevelop the rodeo grounds, but that his organization depended on the bond's passage to find a home for the rink.

"It had to pass before we could get started," Fairfax said.

Now that the rink is partially built, Fairfax said, fundraising will continue, even if the donor comes through and pays for the building. He said he would like to raise an additional $500,000 to $800,000 for programs associated with the rink.

"That would be enough for my comfort level," he said.

Williamson said Hailey Ice has no contract with the city to complete the project, but does have a 20-year lease to use the facility, if and when it is built on city property.

"The city will get title to the asset," Williamson said.

Laski said Hailey Ice had been expecting $500,000 every six months, beginning in late December, from the donor, until the recreation center was completed.

"We are still working on a $3.5 million plan," he said. "But if the donor calls me tomorrow and says it (the donation) is not working out, we will have to come up with a Plan B."

Laski said Plan B could be a lesser building like the one in Idaho Falls, or an uncovered refrigerated rink like the one in Salmon.

"But that is not what the city is looking for nor what we want to do," he said. "Hailey Ice is committed to building this with private money. It is not something that is going to fall back into the city's lap. Completion of the rink will not cost the city of Hailey."

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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