Local ice hockey teams and figure skating clubs rely on the Casper Ice Arena to practice and compete, but the city’s only ice rink is working with aging equipment that could give out any day.
“The compressors, which basically make the sheet of ice, have reached their life span,” said Carolyn Griffith, the city’s recreation manager. She explained that the 33-year-old compressors were well-maintained and have already lasted longer than was anticipated.
Casper leaders wanted to use consensus funding to pay for the needed renovations, but that plan recently fell through.
Consensus money comes from the state and is intended to help communities with various infrastructure issues. The state provides the funding to the entire county and municipality leaders must then decide how to divvy it up.
The Casper City Council asked last month for $600,000 for new seats and metal detectors at the Casper Events Center and $185,646 to repair the ice arena, but the latter request has since been nixed in an effort to compromise with county officials. The town of Mills also had its request for money for park equipment denied.
Griffith said she was hoping to replace the compressors this summer, but the project is now at a standstill until the city finds a way to afford it. While every attempt will be made to keep the compressors running, the manager said she does consider the matter to be urgent.
The ice arena’s current system is also made to work with R-22, a chemical refrigerate the Environmental Protection Agency is gradually phasing out, said Griffith. New equipment will also be needed in order to comply with these changes.
R-22 emissions are damaging to the ozone layer, according to the EPA’s website.
All of the needed renovations will cost approximately $1.2 million and the city is currently about $200,000 short, said Griffith.
The manager added that the arena offers residents a variety of activities, like public skating and lessons, and is the home site for the Casper Coyotes ice hockey team.
David Cole, the head coach for the Casper Coyotes, said the group uses the arena every day. Given that there isn’t another ice rink nearby, he’s unsure where the team would go if the compressors fail.
“It’s important to us obviously, but I think it’s more important for the children,” he said, adding that many kids enjoy taking hockey or ice skating lessons.
Although the City Council agreed to withdraw the request for funding to repair the arena, two council members expressed concerns about that decision at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I don’t like setting aside this ice rink thing,” said Councilman Dallas Laird. “I coached there for 15 years, and I know how much children of this community love playing hockey.”
Noting that he considered the ice arena to be a more serious issue than the seating at the Events Center, Councilman Chris Walsh said the Council should consider making it a higher priority.
Local leaders are continuing to negotiate over consensus funding. Mayor Ray Pacheco said Wednesday that he’s hoping an agreement will be reached within the next week.