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City Council approves final design contract for Municipal Arena upgrade

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City Council members gave the go-ahead Monday night to spend half a million dollars for the final design of the long-awaited renovation of the Watertown Municipal Arena.

The Watertown City Council unanimously authorized a $510,403 contract with Stantec Consulting Services, a Rochester engineering firm, to draw up the final plans for the project, which is expected to cost $6.2 million to nearly $7 million.

Before his vote, Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. wanted to get assurances that council members still had a chance to decide where the hockey team benches would end up. He noted some arena users prefer they remain on the same side as the bleachers.

City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk told him that discussions on the team benches would come while Stantec works on the design.

“This is the beginning, not the end,” he said. “There will probably be a zillion changes before now and then.”

Plans currently place the team benches on the same side as the bleachers or on the opposite side, as has been discussed in recent months. They 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.

In February, the council informally agreed to move forward with the planned renovations at the 40-year-old arena at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. To pass on Monday night, it needed four votes from the five-member council.

The next big vote will come after bids are returned next fall, which will show the project’s final cost.

As it 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 and a new concrete floor would be installed.

Bids would go out later this year for a spring 2015 construction start.

The ice rink is the home of the Watertown Privateers semiprofessional hockey team and youth hockey games. Discussion of the renovations comes at a time when the Privateers might be sold to a local group of investors. Concerts, festivals and other events also are held at the arena.

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