Town Square ice rink criticized for damages
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
July 20, 2012
The future of the ice skating rink installed at Town Square last winter is in limbo, after the parks and recreation department reported flooding from the rink caused $15,000 in damages.
Water used to make the rink damaged electrical outlets under part of the square, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Ashworth said at a town workshop Monday. The outlets are used to provide electricity for special events.
Last winter was the first time an ice rink was created on the square. Grand Teton Skating Academy operated it.
“It’s not something they did specifically in a negligence sort of way,” Ashworth said of the academy. Rather, the nature of the project inevitably led to the damage, he said. Ashworth recommended the rink be moved.
Councilor Mark Obringer suggested moving it to Davey Jackson Elementary School, the Deloney Street parking lot or the Center for the Arts.
But the director of the figure skating academy wants the rink to stay at Town Square. Akop Manoukian said it brings more visitors to the square and helps local businesses.
“We want to make town visible during the winter,” Manoukian said. “What’s happening with the square during the winter time? Nothing, it’s dead.”
The town gave the academy permission to use the space for the rink last winter. Organizers made the rink by compacting snow in the northwest corner of the square and then flooding the space with water from a fire hydrant.
The water damaged the electrical outlets.
Despite the damages, Grand Teton Skating Academy President Kathy Needham said she supports the rink.
“We’re trying to get people to the square and keep them there during times of the year when they usually wouldn’t be there,” Needham said. Nearby businesses benefited from the increased activity, she said.
Funds to install and operate the rink came from business sponsorships, skate rentals and start-up money from the figure skating academy. The academy didn’t charge for ice time, but did charge $3 for skate rentals. The academy rented 650 pairs of skates over the 17 days rentals were available.
Many people with their own skates used the rink, which was open from January to March, Manoukian said.
Needham said the rink would be difficult to operate at another location.
“It’s going to be tough to convince a Town Square merchant that they would benefit from sponsoring the rink if it were a couple of blocks away,” she said.
At the meeting, town officials were supportive of the rink staying in the square. Mayor Mark Barron asked Ashworth to work with the academy to look for solutions.
The outlets that need to be replaced could be built above ground, which could prevent future damage if the rink were to return to the square, Ashworth said.
In May, the Teton County School District No. 1 Recreation District approved $40,365 to have the ice rink at Davey Jackson Elementary School. Ashworth and members of the recreation district board were unavailable Thursday to comment on whether the money could be used to keep the rink at the square.