Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bye Bye Longmont Ice Rink

Just like that, the Longmont Ice Rink at the jovially-nicknamed Pirnack Pavilion is history. The City Council of Longmont, Colorado unanimously voted to not to fund it anymore, in response to deepening budget problems.

As a frequent skater at the rink over the previous winters, there was nothing like the experience of getting outside on a weekend and skating with your friends, neighbors, and teachers at our hometown rink. Lost to the City Council was the spillover of the skaters to nearby businesses; downtown is only blocks away. Instead, skaters and their families will now need to take their business to other communities, and it's a lose-lose deal for us - we have to drive miles away, not see our neighbors at the rink, use up gas and time, and the other towns get our sales tax dollars. This will be happening in a town that is struggling to get more people downtown. Over the summer, in city council hearings about a proposed parking garage that was being positioned as a catalyst for increasing downtown visitors, a consistent theme emerged: people need a reason to go downtown; the building of a multi-level parking structure will not change behavior if there are no attractions.

Much like I see in other cities, I'd argue that the skating rink could have been one of the building blocks in getting families downtown and outdoors, especially during our beautiful, mild winters. Gordon Pedrow, the city manager didn't see it that way and neither did the Council and the end result was that the ice rink is gone.

With the ice rink gone, it is now reasonable to question the existence of the Pavilion. Does it make sense to pay maintenance dollars for such a structure, merely to provide a roof over the bands that play during some concerts in the summer, and perhaps host a few weddings? I'm guessing that renting a tent would be less expensive for the City and the taxpayers. Was an ice rink part of the incentive to get the Pavilion built? How much did we pay for this structure, only to have it sit idle from September to May?

There are murmurs of an ice rink being planned in the Quail Master Plan area in the south part of the City. Ignoring for now that it is not funded, this is another sign of 1970s-style planning where facilities (Rec Centers, Museums, Malls, etc.) are pushed to the outskirts of towns, further condemning and emptying downtowns. Then, at City Council meetings, it appears as a big mystery, requiring hours of debate and tens of thousands of consulting dollars, why nobody comes downtown!

Budget deficits are tough issues. Nobody is entitled to a municipal skating rink and we're glad we had its few years in existence. It was great to see so many kids get on the blades for the first time, out there. What drives citizen distrust and apathy, however, is that only a few days after the ice rink was axed, and smack in the middle of a budget crisis, we read that the Council authorized the spending of $6000 for a blight study of our local mall! And just a month ago, the City was proposing to spend $150,000 on a consultant to tell us how to make our spending cuts, in light of the budget shortfall! How Dilbertesque is that? Luckily, this was not approved. Let's track these type of expenses over the Winter, perhaps on a boondongle-o-meter and see if our ice rink could have been saved (I'll add updated entries as I see other gems like the blight study!).

Where can we go skate now? Please leave a comment if you have experiences with other family-friendly skating rinks, preferably outdoor ones, within a 30 mile radius of Longmont. I'll round up the suggestions and post some reviews over the Winter.

Finally, to the City of Longmont webmaster, it's time to change some web pages!
  1. Longmont Ice Pavillion
  2. "Family Winter Fun" at Roosevelt Park
  3. Renting the Ice Rink
  4. City of Longmont Recreation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
You too, Longmont Area Visitor's Association

[Edit: November 10, 2015:  Convert to a supported font]

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