OUR OPINION: Carson City needs to support downtown ice rink

The Board of Supervisors on Thursday will vote on a first read whether to approve a contract for the Arlington Square Ice Rink this winter.

The rink is expected to cost $262,000 to operate next year, with revenues of only $127,000. The shortfall of $135,000 would be made up by funds from the Carson City Redevelopment Authority.

Supervisor Pete Livermore and some business leaders spoke out against the rink, saying this is not the time for the city to be funding a money-losing proposition.

We strongly disagree.

In a few weeks, the Carson bypass will divert traffic out of downtown - this is a critical time in this city's history. Carson City's economic future hangs on its ability to get people - young, old, families, couples and singles - downtown. The restaurants are a great destination, as are the farmers market and Fridays at 3rd, the shops and casinos. But are they enough?

Failure to add attractions that will bring in visitors year-round would be disastrous. The rink's first year was a money-loser, but that's no reason to pull the plug yet. Let the parks and recreation department take over operation with the goal of working toward breaking even.

In addition to a potential economic driver, the rink provides a desperately needed attraction for families - also a selling point when trying to lure skilled workers to relocate here. There is precious little for families here to do - too many are driving to Reno's ice rink, where they undoubtedly are spending money on food and shopping as well. Not only would the rink keep local families at home, it would draw them from Douglas County to spend their money here.

The Reno ice rink operated in the red for years, only breaking into the black this year, and just barely. That came after Reno bought its own chiller rather than renting one, an idea that has been discussed for Carson City's rink.

The expense was worth it, according to Reno Parks and Recreation manager Johnathan Skinner. The rink draws people downtown, helps economic development and promotes recreation in the area, he said.

Carson City must invest in its future, even in bad times. It's too early to give up on something that improves our quality of life, and that will pay dividends down the road.

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