Everyone loves M.U.F., but where do dreams and reality intersect?
Mammoth Lakes further considered relocation of its M.U.F (Multi-Use Facility), more commonly known as the Ice Rink, at a June 8 Special Recreation Commission meeting design charrette.
Town staff suggested the Rink’s relocation to Mammoth Creek Park West earlier this year.
Currently, the Town leases the Ice Rink land from Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD) for $37,800 a year. That lease payment will increase to $42,000 come 2017. Should the Ice Rink remain on MUSD property, the Town would only pay about $500,000 in lease payments through 2027 (when the current MUSD lease expires), or about $1 million for the next 20 years of use on the MUSD property.
The cost of moving the Rink from its current location behind the library to Town-owned MCPW would come in at about $1.1-$1.3 million, plus another $1 million to build a roof, according to staff.
The Town’s proposal to move the M.U.F. met with vocal backlash from both hockey enthusiasts and residents who live near Mammoth Creek Park. Hockey players are frustrated that the move would delay a long-awaited roof that would allow for a longer skating season, while residents voiced concerns about noise and light pollution, traffic and parking issues arising from M.U.F. use.
Others—including some Recreation Commissioners—noted that moving the rink would not save the Town any money for the next 20 years, at least.
Nevertheless, Public Works Director Grady Dutton ran Recreation Commissioners and MLR Board members through a series of possibilities for the rink location at MCPW. Into its location on the property he factored the potential location of future projects like a Recreation Center, Aquatic Facility, Shane’s Inspiration Playground and parking expansion.
The latter four projects are the result of the Town’s Plan Your Parks workshops, which culminated in a presentation of conceptual park plans to Town Council members in August, 2014. This was before the Town also proposed moving the Ice Rink to MCPW; consequently, as Dutton’s presentation quickly proved, there simply isn’t enough land to accommodate all of the Town’s proposed projects.
In fact, trying to fit the 25,000 square foot Recreation Center, 36,000 square foot Olympic-sized Aquatic Center, 20,000 to 25,000 square foot Shane’s Inspiration Playground, additional parking, and an Ice Rink within 23 acres of park, would in various iterations create a wall of buildings next to residences; a wall of buildings along Old Mammoth Road, or a wall of buildings surrounding the only remaining open park space.
These walls of buildings would all be 35’ to 42’ high.
Recreation Commission Vice Chair Teri Stehlik stressed that in spite of the public perception that all of these projects will happen, “the strategic conversation [about which projects to prioritize] hasn’t taken place.” The Special Recreation Commission’s consideration of locations for all of the facilities “absolutely doesn’t mean that this is happening,” Stehlik said.
Editor’s note: Dear Teri, the public has no illusion that anything will ever happen.
Meanwhile Commissioner Bill Sauser voiced his frustration that the Plan Your Parks process, like so many conceptual processes before it, had created a dream vision without adhering to reality.
“The conversation we’ve never had in all the years I’ve been doing this is what we can afford,” he said. Sauser wondered how the Town would finance building and maintaining the Olympic-sized pool and “massive community and recreation center” in particular.
But Brent Truax, representative of Mammoth Lakes Tourism on the MLR Board, argued that “there is actually some logic behind these particular facilities.” He pointed out that the Plan Your Parks process came up with the concept for the facilities based on community input about what recreation needs the Town is not currently meeting.
The Ice Rink, however, was not among the projects the community voted should find a home at MCPW.
The consequences of moving the rink to MCPW didn’t go unmentioned by Commissioners and MLR Board members.
In moving the Rink, “Do we forego the little open space that we have?” wondered MLR Board member David Page. “That park is a gem.”
“Frankly, I don’t believe the Town can afford to have open space … when we have millions of acres of open space [around us],” argued Commissioner Sauser. That said, “Personally, I don’t think the pool belongs on this site, or the Recreation Center,” he added.
Instead, Sauser maintained the rink was the best fit, as it would match the existing kid-friendly Park.
But Commissioners and MLR Board members wondered where to place the Rink to ensure that if any future projects also moved to MCWP, they too would be optimally located on the site.
Meanwhile MLR Board President Danna Stroud questioned why the Town wouldn’t take a more holistic approach and plan a Recreation Center that includes an ice rink. She proposed this in lieu of a temporary, less-than-iconic Ice Rink that might be highly visible on Old Mammoth Road.
“This trumpets the case for more master planning,” agreed MLR Board Secretary Tom Johnson.
Commissioner Sauser disagreed. “Every time we go through another planning process, it becomes a wish list,” he said. Sauser noted that MUSD could kick the Ice Rink off its current location at any time, according to the lease. “At some point, a decision maker needs to put their foot down,” he said.
Commissioner Sean Turner concurred; “As a business person, I sometimes get frustrated with the public process,” he said. But he also agreed with others that the Town was rushing, “putting the cart before the horse … I’m not convinced this is the right location for the Ice Rink,” he said.
Commissioner Clayton Mendel put it more bluntly: “I still don’t acknowledge this site as the preferred site for the Rink,” he said.
The Recreation Commission comntinues the conversation at a 9 a.m. meeting on June 30.