Guy W. Farmer: Our money-losing ice rink

I was pleased to learn at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting that Supervisor Molly Walt will be taking her children ice skating this winter; however, I don't think that Carson City taxpayers should be asked to subsidize the Walt family's outings to the downtown ice rink, and here's why:

I don't know of a single businessman (or woman) who would invest money in a losing business venture, and that's the problem with our local ice rink - it's a money loser. As Chamber of Commerce Manager Ronni Hannaman told me last week, "We're not against an ice rink, but we wonder whether this quarter-million-dollar expenditure is wise in a weak economy ... We represent business and this project is not sound business."

Supervisor Pete Livermore, a retired businessman, questioned how the ice rink project is going to be managed between the Office of Business Development and the Parks and Recreation Department.

"We were going to make money (on the ice rink) last winter, but we lost $200,000," Livermore said. "There's just too much damn 'fru fru.'" Translation: This is a "feel good" project that costs local taxpayers too much money.

Although the ice rink makes skaters happy, it is an expenditure of public funds that the city can ill afford during tough economic times when every taxpayer dollar counts. If the ice rink is a commercially viable venture, then private investors should pay for it and reap the profits. That's called free enterprise, and it works.

Supervisors also should decide whether this is a parks and recreation project or a downtown business promotion. Although two downtown businessmen - Scott Doerr of B'Sghetti's and John Butler of The Firkin & Fox - endorsed the project at the recent supervisors' meeting, other prominent businessmen aren't convinced.

Carson Station owner Clark Russell wrote to Mayor Bob Crowell and supervisors Livermore and Shelly Aldean, reminding them that "the city has a responsibility to use taxpayer dollars paid into the redevelopment fund to benefit the entire redevelopment district, not just one or two commercial businesses." And Chamber President John Smolenski, an avid skater, noted that the Downtown Business Association is lukewarm about the ice rink, which lost more than $200,000 last year and is projected to lose almost $130,000 this winter.

In a recent letter to the mayor, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Tom Keeton called the ice rink "a waste of money" and said it had failed to generate more downtown business. In short, the city simply can't afford to throw another $130,000 at a money-losing project when so many other civic needs are unmet.

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist, has been a Carson City resident since 1962.


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