Council votes against summer ice in Riverside Arena

Published 12:01 pm Saturday, June 20, 2020

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The Austin City Council voted 6 to 1 against putting summer ice in at Riverside Arena during its regular meeting Monday evening.

Austin Park and Recreation Director Kevin Nelson asked the council to make a decision on the matter to determine if the Austin Bruins could hold their summer ice camp.

Nelson pointed out that due to COVID-19 restrictions, the largest groups allowed on the ice during camps would be two pods of 10, or 20 total, including players and coaches.

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City Administrator Craig Clark reported the average monthly maintenance operating cost from June to September at Riverside Arena is $30,113. Most of that expense comes from utility costs.

In 2019, the city collected $5,630 from the Bruins for their camp, Clark said.

Councilman Steve King (Second Ward) said he opposed putting in summer ice, citing health and budget concerns.

“You can’t ignore that we closed the city pool down and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “We’re also trying to save costs. I’m all for saving $30,000 by not having summer ice. We’d also have a hard time answering the constituents who ask, ‘How come you closed the pool, but opened the ice for the kids?’ I think it would be tough to answer that question. For consistency sake and public health, I don’t see any way out except to not put the summer ice in.”

Councilman Jeff Austin (At-Large), who cast the only vote in favor of putting in ice, emphasized the difference between closing the pool and not putting in ice.

“When we decided to close the pool, it was based on what we knew at the time,” he said. “At the time, it was not going to be feasible under the governor’s restrictions. Now, the governor’s restrictions are different; they would allow for the camps and they can work within those restrictions to have the camps. That would be my response to the citizens – we’ve got to make these decisions based on what we know at the time.”

“We’re number two in the state for rising (COVID-19) cases per capita,” King replied. “We’re in the top 10 in the state without per capita, so as much as the governor’s restrictions are different, the health concerns have not gone away. In fact, they’ve increased.”

Councilmembers Paul Fischer (Third Ward), Joyce Poshusta (Third Ward), Rebecca Waller (First Ward) and Jason Baskin (Second Ward) all agreed that the public safety risk was their main concern. Baskin and Councilwoman Laura Helle (First Ward) also noted that not having summer ice would impact only a small part of the community.

Helle said that it was a difficult decision as some businesses could benefit from having summer ice.

“I do see a difference between the pool and hockey in that local businesses, like hotels, stand to gain some revenue, which is much needed, over the summer if the Bruins are able to do their programming in a safe way,” she said.

Austin agreed with Helle’s statement.

“The people that are coming to these camps, they’re bringing their families, they’re staying in our hotels, they’re eating at our restaurants and they’re putting our gas into their cars,” he said.