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Rochester consultant proposes $9.7 million to $11.1 million arena upgrade

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A Rochester consulting firm projects that a major upgrade of the nearly 40-year-old Watertown Municipal Arena could cost as much as $11.1 million, up from an estimate of $3.6 million several years ago.

On Thursday, the city released a 116-page report outlined by Stantec Consulting Services, which was commissioned to design the much-anticipated project. For years, the Watertown City Council and other city officials have discussed a major upgrade at the municipal arena, even having a report completed by Bernier, Carr & Associates in 2009.

Stantec has proposed three options with costs ranging from $9.7 million to $11.1 million, depending on the amenities included and how the space is configured in the facility at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

All three options involve adding two-story wings on the front and back of the building; expanding the front to include a new lobby; creating more space for the concession stand, and putting in more restrooms. The additions would include office space and multipurpose rooms.

The upgrade also would feature a second entrance for players and Parks and Recreation Department staff; a new locker room for the Watertown Privateers hockey team; a hospitality room for concert performers; a new office for the parks department, and a staff break room.

Work would include making much-needed repairs to the roof and trusses and installing a new fire suppression system. For several years, the roof has leaked during heavy rain. Three more parking lots would be added.

Noting he did not think it would remain at the $3.6 million figure, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he set the renovations as the only topic for Monday’s night Watertown City Council work session, saying he wanted to get council members’ guidance before the project proceeded any further.

“I didn’t expect what it was, but it requires more discussion,” he said, adding he had presumed the project would be more about adding restrooms and improving locker rooms. “I didn’t think it would be a second floor, an elevator and a yoga room.”

The mayor was referring to plans that call for the public no longer to enter the ice rink from street level, but access would come from above with people walking down to their seats from the second floor.

In explaining the costs, City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said the new report has more detailed amenities and design costs, while the Bernier, Carr & Associates study had just preliminary projections. It was completed for the Department of Public Works, he said.

“It’s apples and oranges,” he said. “It’s not a good comparison.”

When they approved a $99,700 contract with Stantec in July, City Council members mentioned the $3.6 million projection, but they all agreed an extensive renovation was well overdue. Mr. Hauk said it will be up to the council to decide whether to proceed with what was proposed.

The most expensive option would feature “all the bells and whistles,” Mr. Hauk said. For instance, option one features a second-floor reviewing window to watch hockey games, while seats would be added in that area under the most expensive option, he said.

Further design work would be completed by March and the project would go out to bid early next winter, with construction starting during the spring of 2015 and being completed the following fall, before the hockey season.

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