By ROB ROGERS
While people from all over the world attended the Seven Peaks Olympic Skating Arena grand opening, park rangers from the Utah Lake State Park and state officials met with the public in a quieter setting to discuss the future of the seasonal ice rink Wednesday night.
“For the past few years the park has been operating the rink at a considerable loss,” said Mark Forbes of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation fiscal staff.
Utah Lake State Park has had an open-air ice skating rink for 20 years, which has supported the Utah County community from public ice skating to Ice Cat hockey practice.
“The community depended on the ice rink,” said Jim Williams, deputy park ranger.
It would cost the state $70,000 to open the rink this fall because of the cost required for repairs to aging equipment, Forbes said.
“This park has been operating over budget for a number of years to the tune of about what it costs to operate the ice rink,” said Jim Harland, Northwest Region Manager of state parks.
Seven Peaks now offers two state-of-the-art indoor year round rinks. Because of the growing cost of keeping the seasonal outdoor rink on Utah Lake open, state park managers and rangers want to close the rink and divert the funds used for operating the rink to summertime operations at the park, Harland said.
“You can only go so far in keeping something maintained,” said Courtland Nelson, director of state parks. “We really need to concentrate on what is our primary responsibility.”
The primary responsibilities are to expand and maintain summertime facilities offered by the state park, said Jordon Tanner, of the Utah State Legislature.
Rangers at the state park’s ice rink had it booked almost 20 hours a day and six days a week during the winter season, Williams said.
“The more rinks you build, the more people will come to use them,” he said.
However, with the park’s high operation and maintenance costs and the new facilities at Seven Peaks, it doesn’t make sense to keep the rink, Harland said. The estimated bill for opening it is $70,000 dollars, along with another $150,000 to maintain it during the winter, he said.
“Personally, I’m going to miss it. I feel like a legacy is slowly closing,” Williams said.
State park managers are now looking for feedback from the community to decide on whether or not they will keep the ice rink at the Utah Lake State Park. Managers will put together a proposal based on their decision and present it to a board of state park officials on Nov. 9, who will then decide on the ice rink’s future.