No cold feet on ice rink

By Jennifer Alfred , Joe Piasecki 12/30/2008

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Facing a growing city budget deficit of at least $13 million, Pasadena City Council members found themselves asking two weeks ago whether the city could afford to deliver on a years-long promise of building a new ice skating rink.
The city’s current rink, an aging facility adjacent to the Civic Auditorium that can no longer support many youth skating activities, will by 2010 be converted back into its former use as a ballroom as part of the $150 million Pasadena Conference Center expansion project.

Plans call for a new 65,000-square-foot facility featuring two professional-size rinks to be built on a plot of land adjacent to Viña Vieja Park in East Pasadena and be operated by the Los Angeles Kings. The city, however, would first have to invest some $26 million in the project, with all but about $5 million of that cost recouped during the first two decades
of operation.

Because the outdated rink is too small for teenage hockey matches, volunteer organizers of the Pasadena Hockey Association have had to halt expansion of their club and move meets and practices out of the city.

“The facility we play in now, quite frankly, doesn’t pass muster,” said Archie Chin, whose wife, Lilly Lieu, is president of the PHA. “We have been coming to City Council for many years now and have been hearing many council members voice their support for the ice rink, and we’ve left here feeling the new rink is just around the corner. We’ve been doing that for nine years.”
But with the city scrambling to cut immediate operating expenses by $6 million, can it afford to spend $26 million?

City Manager Michael Beck thinks so, if council members are willing to use a little creative financing. By “borrowing” money from other city funds to start the project, said Beck, officials could wait until project completion (and improved economic conditions, he hopes) in 2010 to issue certificates of participation that would raise the money needed for the project. Although moving money around carries some risk, it could allow the city to take advantage of lower construction costs linked to the current economic downturn, he said.

Councilmen Steve Madison and Steve Haderlein voiced strong support for going ahead with the new rink. No final decision was made, but council members unanimously approved spending another $90,000 to continue design work.

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