Guaranteed ice would increase winter tourism, supporters say
By Don Nelson
The Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink (WISR) got a big boost in its fundraising campaign to help pay for ice refrigeration equipment and other improvements at the Winthrop Town Council meeting last week.
The council agreed to a request from the town’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee to use $75,000 from Winthrop’s hotel/hotel tax revenues to move the ice rink project closer to its local fundraising goal.
The Town of Winthrop, which owns the rink, has received a $497,000 grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office toward the refrigeration project, which would allow the rink to guarantee ice throughout the winter and upgrade other facilities.
The WISR campaign is working to raise the required matching funds with local donations, which will include $70,000 worth of in-kind labor and materials and a portion of the $170,000 bequest made to the rink by the late Red McComb.
So far, a total of $363,700 has been contributed locally, according to a press release from the rink, leaving about $133,300 more needed to match the grant. The lodging tax funds will cover more than half of that.
Mike Pruett, representing the advisory committee, told the council that the town has a surplus in its lodging tax fund and the $75,000 can be characterized as promoting tourism, which the state grant requires.
Having refrigeration equipment that will allow the rink to be open 115 days a year is “a viable way to increase tourism,” Pruett said.
Town planner Rocklynn Culp said that the $75,000 transfer would be “a vote of confidence” in the rink project.
Kristen Smith, who is also on the advisory committee, said the appeal of outdoor hockey will make the improved rink a popular destination point in the region. She said the University of Washington and Washington State University hockey teams have inquired about playing an “Apple Cup” game in Winthrop.
A youth hockey tournament at the rink last winter drew nearly 400 visitors, according to information from the advisory committee, and three or four tournaments a year could be staged if there is guaranteed ice.
Plans call for the refrigeration equipment to be installed in time for winter of 2015-16.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink, P.O. Box 1262, Winthrop, WA 98862. For more information, go to winthropicerink.com.
In other business related to the rink, the council supported buying hoods to cover the lights that illuminate the skating area. The hoods are expected to significantly reduce night-time glare from the rink lights, which has generated complaints from some town residents.
And in another lighting-related discussion, the council asked public works director Rick Karro to explore how shields could be fabricated and installed to reduce glare from street lamps near the Winthrop Barn.
The council also approved the appointment of Penelope Kern to the Methow Watershed Council.