Community support sought to help pay for $1 million project

The Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink got an early start this year, but can’t always count on cold weather. Photo by Don Nelson

By Don Nelson

A public campaign to raise more than $300,000 to help pay for refrigeration equipment and other improvements at the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink (WISR) was launched this week, with the goal of creating much more ice time for local users, valley visitors and hockey tournaments — and boosting the local economy.

“Guaranteed ice. Wouldn’t it be nice?” is the theme of the fundraising effort by WISR, the nonprofit organization that operates the rink. In keeping with the valley’s Western ambiance, the campaign’s logo is a cowboy boot sporting ice skates.

The $312,000 fundraising campaign goal represents less than a third of the total cost of the project, which will be nearly $1 million when it is completed in time for the 2015-16 winter season.

Earlier this year the Town of Winthrop — which owns the outdoor rink and adjacent building — received a $497,000 grant for the rink improvements through the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The community will be required to match the grant with at least $425,000 in cash and the rest in donated labor and materials.

A $115,000 donation from the estate of the late Red McComb jump-started the campaign. McComb’s legacy will be combined with the $312,000 in other cash donations, plus about $70,000 worth of donated labor and materials, to come up with the community’s portion of the project.

The key element and most costly part of the project is refrigeration equipment that will allow the rink to have reliable ice through late fall, winter and early spring — a goal since the rink opened in 2007 with the help of an earlier RCO grant and community matching funds.

Now, the rink is dependent on the vagaries of winter weather for its operations. Losing even a few days of good ice conditions can dramatically impact the rink’s revenues and thus affect its $60,000 operating budget. Refrigeration would allow the rink to offer ice time and other programs in the “shoulder seasons” as well as mid-winter.

Other planned amenities include new bathrooms, showers, and the addition of four changing rooms, plus other improvements to the outdoor rink site on White Avenue (Twin Lakes Road). The existing building offers a changing room, skate rentals, public restrooms and a meeting/viewing room.

A site plan has been developed for the project. The next step is to hire a consultant to draw up specifications for the improvements by April 2014. WISR plans to solicit bids in November with the goal of awarding a contract by February 2015. Construction would begin in May 2015 and be completed by November of that year, if all goes as scheduled.

That will depend on the fundraising campaign’s success.

“This is an opportunity we can’t pass up,” said Laurie Ulmer, chair of the fundraising committee. She said the group is looking for liaisons to help with fundraising in Twisp and the lower valley. Paul Butler and Bo Thrasher are liaisons for the Mazama area.

Ulmer said the rink could host several hockey tournaments during a longer season without compromising ice time for other users. Hockey tournament organizers are already contacting WISR about the possibilities, Ulmer said. The influx of visitors could be a boon for local lodging providers, restaurants and retailers.

Information about the project will be posted around the valley, and is available on the WISR website, www.winthropicerink.com. Donations can be made on the website, or mailed to the WISR office, P.O. Box 1262, Winthrop, WA 98862. Donations are tax deductible and can be spread out over several years. For more information, contact Ulmer at lulmer@centurytel.net.