Cross-checking, biters and axel jumps may return one day to the Point Mallard Ice Complex, with a majority of the Decatur City Council saying they support eventual repairs to the rink.
But in the near future, hockey players, curlers and figure skaters will have to find their ice someplace other than Decatur.
Council President Paige Bibbee has the support of fellow council members Chuck Ard, Kristi Hill and Charles Kirby to repair the damaged ice rink, despite cost estimates of up to $2.8 million for fixes that include making it a multi-purpose facility. Last summer, workers found deteriorating pipes when they were doing routine maintenance.
“I’d hate to see Decatur lose the ice,” Hill said in a text. “We would be going backward.”
Ard said he believes the ice rink is important to the city.
“We heard a lot of diverse reasons on why the rink is important,” Ard said of a community meeting held Jan. 14. “We’ve got to look at the economic impact of the rink.
“With the growth coming to north Alabama, it’s something that helps draw people in. It has a positive effect on children and adults, young or old.”
Ard said the ice rink needs to be considered an attraction like Jack Allen Recreation Complex is for soccer.
“It brings in people who spend money on food and gas to create sales tax revenues and stay in our hotels to create lodging tax revenues,” Ard said.
Bibbee said the ice rink doesn’t have to make money but she would like to reduce the operating deficit.
Hill takes the ice repairs a step forward. She suggested adding a second ice rink at Point Mallard in what used to be an outdoor rink. That facility is now in use as an outdoor pavilion for company parties and picnics.
However, competing priorities, determining how the repaired rink would be used and finances are obstacles to renovating the rink.
“We’ve got a lot of decisions to make,” Ard said. “We’ve just got to look at everything. We can’t look at one in isolation.”
Kirby on Monday said he would support turning the ice complex into a multi-use facility with an ice rink but he questions the rink’s priority position.
“We’ve been holding ball field needs for 25 to 35 years,” Kirby said. “Not too long ago, the Parks and Recreation Board submitted resolutions supporting the dredging of Wilson Morgan Lake and several other projects. These should all come before an ice rink.”
Kirby said city leaders “always seems to have the money” to do the projects they want to do and they don’t have the money for the project they don’t want to do.
The city already has a major issue with Carrie Matthews Recreation Center, which Kirby said should be the council's top priority. Testing found that the gymnasium floor is sinking, and the repairs could cost as much as $3 million.
Bibbee wants a new recreation center to replace Carrie Matthews. District 1 Councilman Billy Jackson is against replacing Carrie Matthews.
Jackson has also been vocal in his opposition to the ice complex. He voted against building the complex in 1999, and now he’s against repairing the ice rink.
Jackson said his constituents have the same love for Carrie Matthews as those who attended last week’s community meeting have for the ice complex.
“I don’t know why she continuously ignores the councilman who represents the district and his district,” Jackson said. “Carrie Matthews is part of the tradition of our district.”
Bibbee said she doesn’t understand why Jackson wouldn’t want a new recreation center, especially when the Carrie Matthews work may cost as much as a new center.
Another potential issue that could compete for city dollars involves the Aquadome Recreation Center and Brookhaven Middle School. 3M-Decatur is testing for industrial contamination at the two buildings on Fifth Avenue Southwest because both were built on a landfill. The city is waiting for results of monitoring, which begins this week.
DYS previously used Brookhaven and continues to use the Aquadome.
Mayor Tab Bowling said he "hopes the council doesn't get in a hurry," and it takes the time to determine its priorities. In addition to Carrie Matthews and possibly the Aquadome, he pointed to other projects like building new fire stations.
Bibbee said she prefers the more-expensive $3 million cement floor on the new rink, instead of a sand base, because then the city could make it a multi-use facility. She said other changes need to be made to the building, like centering the rink and removing a room to create space for bleachers.
“We could use the ice for three or four months and then cover it for the rest of the year for other uses,” Bibbee said.
Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake proposed in October making the complex a multi-use athletic and event center without ice.
Lake provided alternatives that could cost as much as $4 million to repair the facility, including a lesser expense by using sand as the base or a $3 million expense if cement is used.
Lake said Monday he’s OK with keeping the ice rink in any future plans. He said the city needs an architect to provide ideas on how the building can be changed to offer ice and other indoor sports like volleyball, gymnastics, cheerleading and other competitions.
“Each of these sports have requirements for their buildings, so we need to learn them so we can meet those requirements,” Lake said.
Hill said she likes Lake’s idea for a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility. She suggested Wilson Morgan Park on Beltline Road Southwest would be a good location if there’s enough room there.
“It would be centrally located,” Hill said.
Bibbee said a multi-purpose facility like Hill suggested could include an indoor pool, multiple indoor basketball courts and racquetball courts, and be more like recreation facilities at Auburn University and the University of Alabama.