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Watertown ice rink project could cost as little $6.2 million

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City Council members informally agreed on Monday night to move forward with the planned renovations at the Watertown Municipal Arena after seeing how a Rochester engineering firm found ways to cut the project’s cost to between $6.2 million and nearly $7 million.

The Watertown City Council learned Monday night that Stantec Consulting Services, a Rochester engineering firm, further reduced the price tag by $1.8 million by eliminating 8,000 square feet of space and some unneeded amenities at the ice rink at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

But Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. contended that more meetings should be scheduled to discuss finding additional ways to reduce costs, saying it would be “time spent well worth it.”

Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns responded, “I’ve been putting my time in for years, councilman,” in contending that previous delays in putting off the long-awaited project “probably cost the city money.”

Mr. Butler argued that the city should develop “a Plan B” in case bids come back too high, suggesting a planned second floor as an alternative bid. He expressed concern that the city will soon have to spend an additional $1.5 million for City Hall renovations caused by the appointment of a second full-time City Court judge, and that the city also faces potential decreases in sales tax revenue.

“The timing is awful,” he said.

But Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and council members Teresa R. Macaluso and Stephen A. Jennings also agreed that the city should move forward with the project.

“You want to do it or you don’t want to do it,” Mr. Graham said.

Last week, Ms. Macaluso, Mr. Jennings and Mr. Butler traveled to Potsdam to tour SUNY Potsdam’s newly renovated $8.7 million ice arena to get ideas for what should be included in Watertown’s project.

In December, Stantec proposed three options ranging from $9.7 million to $11.1 million. In the ensuing weeks, city staff and Stantec found ways to reduce the cost to about $7.8 million.

As it now stands, the project would include a new entrance and lobby on the building’s west side, a main locker room and a hospitality room, more office space, a new concession area and a combined training-break locker room. The ice rink’s roof would be replaced.

Plans also call for a second floor to accommodate collapsible 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. However, it has not been decided whether team boxes would remain on the same side as the bleachers, as is the case now. Stantec officials have recommended putting them on the opposite side, so fans get a better view of the hockey games.

On Monday night, council members agreed to spend $600,000 for a new concrete floor, $150,000 for new dasher boards and $80,000 for upgraded lighting. The $6.2 million to $7 million range depends on what materials are used for the facility’s facade, whether cement blocks or drywall is used for the interior and other factors such as the quality of the restroom facilities, architect Roger J. Kelemecz said.

To reduce costs, the consultants eliminated such amenities as a pro shop and combined a multi-purpose and party room.

City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said council members will be asked probably next month to agree that Stantec complete final design work for the project. Bids would go out early next year for a spring 2015 construction start.

The ice rink is the home of the Watertown Privateers semi-professional hockey team and youth hockey games.

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