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Council to see revised plans for ice arena renovations

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The Watertown City Council should know tonight whether planned renovations at the city’s ice rink should skate along, or end up on thin ice.

Stantec Consulting Services, a Rochester engineering firm, is expected to unveil revised plans for the Watertown Municipal Arena during tonight’s work session.

On Friday, City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said his office and the engineer firm were still exchanging emails with changes to the long-awaited project to revamp the 40-year-old arena.

“I’m anxious to see what they came up with,” Councilman Stephen A. Jennings said.

In recent months, council members have been wrangling with the cost of the project and exactly what amenities should be included in the facility. In December, Stantec first proposed three options ranging from $9.7 million to $11.1 million. In the ensuing weeks, staff and Stantec found ways to reduce the cost to about $7.8 million.

As planned, the project includes a new entrance and lobby, a main locker room and hospitality room, more office space and a combined training-break locker room. Plans also call for a second floor to accommodate bleachers with an entrance from above, rather than at rink level.

By having the public enter from above, the design would create separate entrances for hockey teams and fans. The ice rink’s roof, concrete floor and refrigeration system also would be replaced.

Last week, a contingent of city officials, including council members Teresa R. Macaluso, Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Mr. Jennings, took a road trip to look at SUNY Potsdam’s newly renovated $8.7 million ice arena.

They saw how the Potsdam arena keeps hockey players, fans and referees apart by the same concept of having the public enter from above.

It also gave them some ideas on how to approach Watertown’s project, said Ms. Macaluso said.

However, the Potsdam structure is used only as an ice rink, while Watertown’s facility is a multipurpose building, she said.

Besides the Watertown Privateers minor league hockey team and youth leagues, the arena is the home for summer concerts, special events and an array of other Parks and Recreation Department activities.

While she and the other council members are cost-conscious, they also want to make sure to include what’s needed in the revamped arena, Ms. Macaluso said.

“We want to make sure to do it right the first time,” she said.

Council members said they are relying on Mr. Hauk to make recommendations on the technical and engineering aspects of the project, such as energy and mechanical systems. Mr. Jennings said he does not want the project to get held up while council members consider changes and its cost, since the hope is to get bids out next month and choose a general contractor early this spring.

The work session begins at 7 p.m. and will be held in the third-floor council chambers in City Hall, 245 Washington St.

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