By Thanksgiving, visitors to downtown Lawrence should have the chance to do triple salchows, toe loops and a host of other ice skating moves.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting approved an $80,000 bid to set up a rink of artificial ice in the plaza between the expanded Lawrence Public Library and the new parking garage on Vermont Street. But the approval didn’t come without some concern.
“I’m having a hard time doing this after we’ve just gone through budget season and we’ve told departments that that we’re taking this or that away from them,” Mayor Mike Amyx said.
Amyx noted that during the budget process the city denied many equipment requests from departments, even telling leaders of the city’s new rental inspection program that its inspectors would have to drive used police cars rather than new vehicles.
Commissioner Mike Dever said he also was concerned about the $80,000 expenditure, especially given that the city is set to open the new recreation center at Rock Chalk Park in the coming weeks. He said the city needs to have some cushion in its parks and recreation budget to absorb any unexpected expenses related to the opening.
Commissioners approved the bid on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Jeremy Farmer, Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm supporting the plan. They noted the bulk of the funding for the rink and equipment will come out of the city’s guest tax fund, containing tax revenue from hotel stays, and not the general fund that was targeted for budget cutting.
Riordan, a physician, said the increased opportunity for winter exercise outweighed any concerns he had about funding. Farmer said he’s received a host of positive comments from the public about the rink.
Plans call for the rink to be 60 feet by 80 feet, which is large enough to accommodate about 125 skaters. The surface would be a sheet of artificial ice made from a slick plastic material. Parks and recreation leaders plan to have the rink up by Thanksgiving and to leave it up through the second week of January. The rink then could be removed for the season and the plaza area could be returned to a grass surface to host other outdoor events.
The $80,000 bid includes a supply of skates that the city could rent to patrons. Preliminary plans call for a $3-per-skater fee to use the rink,
In other news, city commissioners:
• Accepted an offer from the Kaw Valley Kickball League to fund the construction of an old-time scoreboard at the stadium in Hobbs Park in East Lawrence.
The league, which has about 500 members and uses the East Lawrence park for games on Sunday nights, has raised about $15,000 for the project. Plans call for the scoreboard to feature placards that are manually changed as runs are scored.
“Every week, somebody is going to have to be in charge of putting those numbers up there,” said Jacki Becker, a member of the league’s board.
The scoreboard would be beyond the outfield fence in left-center field and would be available for use by softball, baseball and other teams that use the turn-of-the-century Lawrence Municipal Stadium.
Plans call for the scoreboard to be in place by the beginning of the kickball league’s season opener in May.
• Deferred for one week a request by Lawrence Bank to temporarily have exclusive use of two public parking spaces near Eighth and Massachusetts streets. Downtown Lawrence Inc. had expressed some concern about the request, which comes as the bank moves from Ninth and New Hampshire streets to Eighth and Massachusetts streets. The bank is moving because its current building will be torn down to make room for a new multistory building, which when finished will include offices for the bank.