Here’s a curveball for you.
Upon reading last week’s coverage of the proposed M.U.F. (“The Bare Necessities” and “Mind The Gap!”), I couldn’t help but think to myself, maybe the issue isn’t just about the extravagance of spending (at minimum) $13 million on the project.
Maybe the issue, at this point, is also that they’re not being extravagant enough.
As Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commissioner Christie Osborne said, “What I don’t want to build is the ice-skating version of Canyon Lodge.”
And I suppose what she’s talking about is not building a project which is seemingly outdated the moment it opens.
Consider Canyon. It is too small for busy ski weekends. The acoustics make it a mediocre events venue. It’s certainly serviceable, but hardly top shelf. And this was, I imagine, fairly evident from the day it opened.
When I reflect back upon my childhood in Hanover, New Hampshire. I recall that Dartmouth College built its own “multi-use facility,” Thompson Arena, which opened in 1975.
Initially, the 3,500-seat arena was used for hockey, basketball and concerts.
In fact, my parents took me to a Dolly Parton concert there in the late ‘70s.
What I remember about that concert is Dolly stopping halfway through the show and smirking at the audience and saying, “I know what you’re lookin’ at.”
Of course, I know what I had been looking at, and I had brought a pair of binoculars to get an even better look, and I couldn’t figure out how Dolly had busted me from so far away.
But then, her punchline: “My wig … you’re lookin’ at the size of my … wig.”
So here’s what happened with Thompson Arena. Despite best intentions during its construction, it didn’t really work as a basketball arena. It was too expensive to change over the surfaces in-season when hockey and basketball alternated weekends. And as a basketball venue, it was just … cold. And the floor was too far away from the seats. It wasn’t intimate.
They played basketball there for a few seasons before returning to the old Alumni Gym until a new, 2,100-seat basketball/volleyball arena, Leede Arena, opened in 1987.
The college discontinued hosting concerts at Thompson Arena almost immediately because the acoustics were terrible.
So what started as a “multi-use facility” is an ice rink. And it’s a terrific facility which was built 43 years ago and looks like it could have opened yesterday. But it was an absolute mistake to believe that it could ever be anything more than a hockey rink. Although it has served as a rainy-day alternative for graduation ceremonies.
It certainly helps to have an endowment of several billion dollars when it comes to capital projects.