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City ends contract with group that managed ice rink

August 03, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

The Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex will remain closed until city officials can find another organization to manage the facility.

During a Friday press conference, city Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the city recently decided to terminate its contract with the Washington County Sports Foundation, the group that had managed the complex for the past 10 years.

In the meantime, city officials will try to find an interim manager so the $2.32 million facility can open by mid-September, Zimmerman said.

The city would consider other uses for the building, he said.

"We've been very appreciative of the foundation," Zimmerman said. "We've reached the point where we need to make a change."

Britt Miller, president of the Washington County Sports Foundation, said the organization had about a $300,000 annual budget to operate the facility.

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Although the foundation roughly broke even over the past three years, Miller said it became increasingly difficult to generate revenue. He said about 65,000 patrons visited the facility each year.

The foundation also had a hard time finding volunteers to serve on its board of directors, Miller said.

In addition to the foundation's operating budget, Zimmerman said the city spent about $204,000 per year to keep the ice complex going - $90,000 to pay for utilities and $114,000 to satisfy a loan that city officials acquired to help finance the facility's construction costs.

The city will continue to shell out $114,000 in each of the next five fiscal years to pay off the remaining balance on the $1.2 million loan, Zimmerman said.

Besides finding a new manager, the city has to fix the ice surface before the facility can reopen, said Lewie Thomas, the city's recreation facilities coordinator.

If that doesn't happen, Thomas said people who already paid for ice time in 2007-08 would be reimbursed.

"We want to continue working with the ice rink's user groups to explore potential operating structures that will allow for continued use of the facility," he said. "We know there is interest in keeping the facility open as an ice rink, and we will continue to evaluate possible interim operations."

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