Nine Madison ice rinks could close this year

Costs too high to maintain rinks
Nine Madison ice rinks could close this year

The city of Madison’s budget makes cuts that some neighborhood leaders said would cut a frequently-used resource. Nine city ice rinks would close under Mayor Paul Soglin’s proposed operating budget just two years after volunteers in some neighborhoods stepped up to cut the costs.

The days of tennis, basketball and volleyball may be over soon. The time is coming when fields of brown in Madison parks turn to sheets of white and fill with skaters.

“The rinks were suffering because the city wasn’t maintaining them, and we stepped in and made them much better,” said Dave Blouin with the Westmorland Neighborhood Association.

Blouin said volunteers have put in hundreds of hours on the park’s two ice rinks and they were shocked when this year’s city budget showed the rinks would be closed along with those in nine other city parks.

“I’m deeply frustrated that we’re facing this again two years later,” said Blouin.

City staff said water costs are part of the reason for the closures. Four of the city’s rinks costs thousands a year, including more than $16,000 at Garner Park’s floating rink. But the remaining five rinks cost less than $1,000 apiece for water, including Westmorland. The total water cost for all nine parks slated to close is around $32,000.

“Really what happened was the 5 percent budget reduction request came and this was one of the things, rather than carte-blanche cutting an entire service, that we offered up, including regionalizing lifeguard services as well as ice rinks so an entire service wouldn’t be taken away,” said Laura Whitmore, spokesperson for the Madison Parks Department.

In total, utilities, staff and water cost more than $78,000 in all of the city parks. But five of the parks where volunteers have stepped up for the “Adopt Ice Partnership” cost less than $5,000 apiece. Blouin says this budget simply doesn’t take that into account.

Nine Madison ice rinks could close this year

“We’re going to fight it,” said Blouin. “I don’t see that this is a useful thing to kill. I think it’s a small amount of money for the benefit that the neighborhoods get.”

The city would keep three ice rinks open in Elver, Tenney and Vilas parks as part of that “regionalization” of the service. Parks Department official say they are hopeful the mayor or Common Council can find the money to keep the parks open.