Invest in Mammoth Creek West
Mammoth Creek West Park is the best, most viable option for a permanent and covered outdoor ice rink, a great location for what could be a true resort amenity.
When we opened the bowling center, a surprising number of people said that the next project should be an indoor ice rink. If one were to build an ice rink as a business for profit, it would never, ever be located at the current site behind the library.
The current rink location is not at all attractive from a business investment perspective. There is absolutely no exposure to the traveling public of any kind, either by automobile traffic, bicycles or pedestrians. Most resort guests don’t use Meridian Blvd. with any frequency. Consider: After winding along a back street behind the shopping center, you arrive at a dead-end parking lot behind the library and voila, there’s your ice rink. The location is a dead end, both literally and figuratively, hidden away with no sense of arrival or destination.
The rink is located in what looks like a small business park. It appears temporary, chosen as an afterthought without much planning or concern about it being permanent or attractive. Further, it has no relationship to anything else around it, whatsoever. As hard as the Town tries to promote it, the current rink will never be a true resort attraction because of its bad location.
An outdoor rink should conjure up images of the Peanuts gang and Snoopy skating on a frozen pond, idyllically and magically, with nothing but nature in the background. Charles Shultz didn’t draw buildings and school structures into his winter skating scenes, for a reason. Likewise, outdoor rinks in Europe have beautiful settings with views of the Alps and nature, functioning as Town centers for people to gather and enjoy themselves. The current rink location features none of these aesthetic qualities.
In addition to these fundamental “location” problems with the site, there is another far more critical issue. You cannot make a substantial investment in development when you do not own the land.
Here is a short but true story to illustrate the point. There was once a very popular private beach club in Santa Monica called the Sand and Sea Club. The club was located on the beach at the old William Randolph Hearst-Marion Davies estate. It operated under a lease controlled by the City of Santa Monica. At one point in time, the club had an option to purchase the land, but the members unwisely elected to renew the lease instead. Well, in the 1990s, the City decided to create greater public beach access and chose not to renew the lease. The members lost everything, including food and beverage operations, clubhouse, locker rooms, pool, paddle tennis courts, etc. After decades of use assuming it would never end, the Club suddenly ceased to exist.
Here is another example. On the west side of the Sierra there is a mountain resort called Bass Lake, off of Highway 41 leading into Yosemite. The resort homes were privately owed, but title to the land was held by Pacific Gas and Electric. Most homes were funky little cabins, and no one really invested much into their modest structures because they leased the property underneath. Eventually, PG & E sold the property to the homeowners, and a massive resort-wide building boom occurred, with tear downs, construction and remodels happening everywhere.
This is the same reason that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area will not rebuild the Main Lodge area until the company owns the land.
As a business decision for the Town, WE CANNOT MAKE SUBSTANTIAL LONG TERM INVESTMENT ON LAND TO WHICH WE DO NOT HOLD TITLE. 25 years into the future, if the School District decided to use the property for another purpose—which it would have every right to do—people would be asking why we ever invested at the site in the first place. The Town government would be criticized yet again for another bad decision. Best case, the Town would have to renegotiate the lease over and over during the course of the years, losing bargaining power as its financial commitment increased.
Mammoth Creek Park East would also be an insensible choice for the ice rink. If you already own a perfectly adequate parcel of land for your business or Town project, why in the world would you ever purchase land directly across the street to build the same thing? It’s a moot issue, anyway, because the Town doesn’t have the eight or nine million dollars, give or take a few million, required to buy the land even if it wanted to do so. Never mind that closing a purchase with the Forest Service would take years.
At the Mammoth Creek Park gathering, there really wasn’t that much dissension except from a few people who were obviously nearby homeowners. The strongest opposition appears to be coming from the HOA next door, as reflected in its letter to The Sheet. Compared to the overall population of Mammoth Lakes, however, this is a relatively small group raising a lot of noise. The greater interests of the larger community should weigh heavily in favor of what the Town wishes to do here.
There is a rampant case of NIMBYism in Mammoth Lakes. Everyone genuinely wants all kinds of projects built and infrastructure added to our community, but just “not in my back yard.” You want a new state-of-the-art multi-use recreation facility? Where is it going to go? You want an indoor aquatic facility? Where? You want a permanent outdoor ice rink with a roof? A new event center to hedge against Sam’s Woodsite eventually being sold (it will be one day) to an entity other than the Town? Where again? For our community to achieve what it wants and needs, these facilities must be located somewhere, and they will be in someone’s backyard.
There are apparently no restrictive covenants, view easements, or other restrictions on the Mammoth Creek Park property that limit or control what the Town can do with it, vis-a-vis the neighboring properties. When people purchase a home next to a vacant parcel of land, they must surely expect and unequivocally understand that, one day, something might be built there. You cannot stop the otherwise legal development of adjacent property, short of purchasing the land yourself at fair market value. The Town owns the land and should use it for appropriate purposes that serve its larger needs.
Hiding the ice rink in a crappy, obscure location seems to be the answer for a lot of people, not in my backyard, but tucked away where no one will see it. Is that the answer, to place the rink where no one can see it, where no one knows it exists? We may as well look for space in the industrial park.
The proper answer is about finally beginning to do some things right in planning as a Town, to enhance our resort and community experience, to build our resort in positive and attractive ways, to do it right for once, and to not muddle along in a mediocre way doing business as usual.
The rink should be a legitimate resort and community attraction, a true amenity. It should be a destination where people will want to sit, relax and watch people reveling on skates outdoors, perhaps even served by vendors licensed to sell coffee, hot cider, Euro-Waffles, and other tasty offerings creating pleasant aromas breezing about in the cool mountain air. That’s an attractive scenario, a vision that raises the bar and might even make sense as a profitable business investment.
The current ice rink site? It is a library/school ground/parking lot with an ice rink in it, not a resort attraction.
The concerns that have been expressed about Mammoth Creek West as an ice rink site (the doom and gloom scenarios) are well contrived but not well taken.
An outdoor ice rink would be completely consistent with the current use of the park. The rink would simply provide a larger park experience with more outdoor activities. During summers, would basketball and volleyball under the roof on a drizzly day conflict with the park’s current use? No. Low intensity outdoor lighting will be required, further contained by the roof, all turned off at a reasonable hour. Crime and trash: Have there been similar issues at the existing rink? In any case, the Town will manage and mitigate any problems that arise.
The HOA letter raised a concern about the lack coordination with future multi-use and aquatic facilities. At the park gathering, however, Grady Dutton specifically said the plan was “conceptual” and not final, and that the proposed location took into account further development of those other facilities.
Opposition by skating enthusiasts doesn’t appear adamant. Local skaters simply want a covered rink as soon as possible and are concerned about delays. Keep in mind, though, rushing to the quickest solution may not lead to the best solution. This much is certain: The possibility of indefinite delays will increase with protracted debate and opposition to a relocation sensibly proposed by the Town. Reading the tea leaves, the town government doesn’t seem inclined to invest millions more dollars into leased land.
Mammoth Creek Park West is the best, most logical and suitable location for providing our community and resort with a permanent, covered rink. It is an attractive setting with better access and greater exposure to the thousands of people who drive along Old Mammoth Road. The Town owns the property, and we shouldn’t invest another penny into land that we don’t own for this purpose.
Some people oppose the relocation to Mammoth Creek West, but the Town should do what is right for the greater good and the best interests of the resort and the community at large.
Once a final plan is developed, we need to paddle into the wave and go for it. Twenty years from now, or likely less, people won’t be able to imagine Mammoth Creek Park West without its outdoor rink amenity.
Disappointed in Town response
I would like to address my comments to the Initiative to require voter approval for overnight rental zoning changes. It appears the Town Council is discussing permitting zoning changes to allow overnight rentals in neighborhoods where this is currently not permitted. An Initiative has been circulated that would require voter approval before additional neighborhoods are opened up to overnight rentals.
Clearly the number of signatures gathered shows that the majority of residents believe this is an issue to be decided by voters and not the Town Council. It is unfortunate, but true, that due to many recent mistakes by the Council—the $60 million airport bankruptcy debacle, the intention to build a—$10 million? recycling facility in town, next to a neighborhood—that Mammoth residents are not willing to rely on the decisions of the Council. They are elected, but… need to be watched before decisions are made, not after.
But given the above, the Town’s response to the overwhelming amount of signatures, while disappointing, is not surprising. Some have doubted that the signatures gathered are a statement of a majority of Mammoth residents. Some Council members appear to believe they were elected to make decisions and that the public should only weigh in afterwards. Some Council members, according to a recent Mono County Grand Jury report, do not have the time to carefully weigh the costs and consequences of the decisions they make.
I highly recommend that residents read the report written by local attorney Gregg Martino stating, in brief, that the Council’s argument on this issue is invalid. And, in addition, offensive to Mammoth residents who signed this Initiative. This report can be found at http://letmammothdecide.org/facts-are-important/
Mary Ann Dunigan
Nice work, taxeaters
So it took 10 years and hiring a consultant for Mammoth Unified School District to figure out “that for most children, learning two languages at the same time is very difficult”??
Nice work, taxeaters.