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Bonner County approves ice rink

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | October 27, 2021 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT – The community is getting an ice rink.

Bonner County commissioners unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Sandpoint Community Center Corporation to construct an ice rink between the fairgrounds and the sheriff’s office.

The Sandpoint Community Center Corporation has been pushing for an ice rink for over 20 years, citing that the benefits would have a positive impact both financially and socially to the community.

“The Sandpoint residents have long sought for an ice arena in town,” said Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad. “I’m here to say that I want to do whatever I can to support it, on behalf of the city.”

Rognstad said he would assist with the necessary zoning change for the site, and expressed willingness to help fund the project.

“Hopefully the local option tax will pass here on Nov. 2, and we would have a funding mechanism to be able to contribute to this project,” Rognstad said.

Darcey Smith presented a lease agreement for the site to county commissioners on Tuesday. The project will not impact the county or fairgrounds budget, instead being funded entirely by the SCC.

“This group has for 20 years been trying to found an ice rink,” said Commissioner Chairman Dan McDonald. “One of the problems with fundraising was they never actually had property. So this opportunity came up and we were able to work a very lucrative deal that will benefit the fairgrounds”

The project is expected to cost $8 million once complete. Half of that will be paid before ground breaks on the ice rink. The Sandpoint Community Center Corporation is forbidden from taking on debt to fund the project, and group members saying they plan to fund the project through donations and grants.

“Once operational, the facility will easily generate income for its operation, but only if a mortgage is avoided,” SCC President Robert Pierce said in a press release.

The rink will be modeled after the one in McCall, which Pierce said has been “extremely successful in a much smaller community.”

Increasing indoor opportunities for community members, especially during the cold and rainy months, has always been our top priority,” said Pierce, “One of our major focuses will be after-school programs for kids.”

The ice rink is also expected to be utilized during the warmer half of the year. According to sandpointice.org, the facility will be used for concerts, trade shows, county fair events, Lost in the ‘50s, arts and crafts fairs, in-line skating, indoor soccer, and other activities.

“Tournaments and ice shows can stimulate the economy — filling hotel rooms, restaurants, and sending retail sales upwards during the slower times of the year,” Pierce said.

Tom Chasse, an SCC board member and CEO of Schweitzer, expressed enthusiasm for the rink, saying that it will give winter tourists more of a reason to visit Sandpoint.

The community is asked to pitch in on funding for the approved project. Voting for the local option tax or donating directly to the SCC will help speed the process for constructing the new community center.

This is the second ice rink proposal this month in Bonner County. The Ponderay City Council recently approved a plan to pursue purchase of a second-hand ice skating rink with a budget up to $50,000. The council agreed that if the project could start this winter then the rink could be installed at a temporary location in the city, with the goal to move it next winter to the Field of Dreams.

More information about the Sandpoint ice rink can be found at sandpointice.org.

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(Graphic Courtesy – SandpointIce.org)

An aerial photo of the proposed footprint for the newly approved ice rink. The rink will be built on land located in between the Bonner County Fairgrounds and the Bonner County Sheriff's Office. The site also has room for the rink to be expanded upon in the future.

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(Graphic Courtesy – SandpointIce.org)

A blueprint of the proposed ice rink. The project will be completely funded by the Sandpoint Community Center Corporation. The funds will be raised through grants and donations, as a mortgage is not an option for the project.