An analysis of the three Multi-Use Facility options
As the Mammoth Lakes Town Council considers the alternatives for the proposed Multi-Use Facility [MUF], it is important to be clear on exactly each alternative entails.
The most recent directive from Council to Town staff was to explore the viability of the current site next to the library for a rink. Staff’s report on this directive will be ready by February 6th, and then the town will likely make a decision.
Here are council’s choices:
Choice A – $13 million facility at Mammoth Creek Park West
Choice B – Less Expensive facility at Mammoth Creek Park West
Choice C- Find a way to keep the facility where it is
To be clear, none of these facilities include a community center. These proposed facilities are “Multi-Use Facilities,” alternatively called, “RecZones.” The proposed design is for a sport court that will be iced over in the winter and melted in the summer to reveal courts for basketball, tennis, etc. The design has a roof with two walls on the windward side and and openings on the other two sides. The idea is to make this RecZone adaptable, so that a community center can be added later when funds become available.
Here is why Choice A will likely be council’s final decision:
First, Choice B is essentially a non-choice. There is very little information about it. The town created an amenities profile for Choice A. Not only has it not made such a profile for Choice B, but it has no intention to do so. Council did not direct staff to analyze the prospective amenities of a smaller facility.
Town Manager Dan Holler said during the course of the December 5th Town Council meeting that Choice B was included as an option because the town does not have enough money for Choice A, and he felt that it would be bad management to only give the council one choice for which it does not have the funds. The Town currently has $9.1 million in the bank for a Multi-Use Facility.
The rhetoric around this project has consistently been to, “do it right,” and to make this facility, “world class.”
Though Holler said that the town does not currently have the funds for a $13 million facility, he presented the council with ways that the funds could be found. Of the $9.1 million already allocated to the project, the majority has come from a bond issuance, $5.5 million, and Measure R, $2.6 million. Significant additional funds could come from Measure R reserves, $1.2 million, and Measure U Reserves, $900,000. However, Holler said he did not recommend that the town dip into these funds for the project. Bill Sauser also said at the Dec. 5 meeting that he feels that, “Some General fund monies should be spent on recreation.”
Second, the town’s recommending bodies have all recommended Choice A. Both Mammoth Lakes Recreation and the Town Recreation Commission, which were asked for their opinion by the town, have sent multiple letters notifying council of their preference for A.
Their preference for A stems in part from the fact that the current facility is simply not viable. On many January days this year, the Parks and Recreation department has had to put thermal blankets on the ice in order to prevent it from melting. The chiller is over twenty years old, along with the dasherboards and scoreboard. The chiller was purchased from a semi-professional hockey team in Boston in the 1990s, according to Recreation Manager Stuart Brown. The longest that this chiller could last is 2020 when the refrigerant that they use, R-22, is to be discontinued.
More pressing than the chiller, however, is the concrete slab beneath the ice. The slab was improperly installed in 2010, as it was not installed by an ice rink specialist, according to Brown. It is already showing significant wear. The slab is so uneven that it is currently unusable as a sport court in the summer. When the town lays ice on the slab the ice resurfacer must deal with several high and low spots resulting in an uneven surface, which becomes problematic in the warmer months as the ice melts.
This more than likely means that an entirely new facility, including an expansive steel roof, slab/piping, dasherboards and a chiller, would have to be built at the current site if the town decides to stay there.
Two further issues with the current ice rink site.
The town does not own the property, the school district does. The current cost to the town for leasing the site is around $40,000 plus snow removal, which brings the annual cost to over $60,000. A similar lease going forward would cost the town between $1.5 to $2 million over thirty years. The town does own Mammoth Creek park, and so would have no lease payments.
It is also not certain that the school would choose to offer the town this lease. Mono County Behavioral Health has also asked to lease the land from the school to build community housing. Housing is also a priority of the town, and allowing Behavioral Health to build housing on the site and avoiding lease payments could be a win-win for Mammoth. The Mammoth Unified School Board was scheduiled to consider both options at its meeting on Thursday, January 24.
The second issue is that the school site is not big enough to build an expansion or complementary recreation amenities. The $13 million facility at Mammoth Creek Park is proposed to have an Olympic-sized rink with room for a community center expansion and perhaps other community desired recreation facilities.
The school site has room for an NHL sized rink, and no room for expansion. The town would still likely use Mammoth Creek Park for the community center if it built the RecZone at the school site.
The town’s official assessment of the school site will be published on February 6th.