Ice rink

The Hyatt again requested a synthetic ice surface for the Silver Circle Ice Rink this winter, but were told by Aspen City Council Monday night that they must provide a standard ice skating rink.

Aspen City Council’s regular meetings will move to the second and fourth Tuesday of the month beginning in October, elected officials decided on Monday. 

The council chose to swap the meetings from their current Monday position to allow one more day for council members and the public to review agendas and information packets prior to discussing legislation.  

The idea was first floated in the council retreat last month and was supported by all four councilmembers at the conclusion of their meeting Monday night. Ward Hauenstein was absent. The meetings will still begin at 5 p.m. Work sessions, which had previously been on Tuesdays and alternate Mondays when there was no regular meeting, will still begin at 4 p.m., but now will be held on Mondays and alternate Tuesdays.

The council spent the majority of their meeting Monday contemplating the fate of the prominent downtown amenity, the Silver Circle Ice Rink, located across from Rubey Park transit station and operated by CP Burger.

The Hyatt Residence Club, located just south of the rink, is under obligation through its development approval to provide a refrigerant-cooled ice rink from Thanksgiving to the end of March. Last year the club petitioned council to instead use a synthetic substance for the rink, citing steep costs to upgrade the aging refrigeration system and changing regulations regarding the use of freon by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The synthetic substitute used last year resulted in an overwhelming amount of complaints to the city and to CP Burger, which is tasked with operating the public amenity. Craig Cordts-Pearce, who co-owns the burger shack with his wife Samantha, told council that the dissatisfaction with the skating experience last year cost the business $180,000. They said the public would routinely express anger to the employees at the counter.

“They think CP Burger put the plastic down … . We were the ones giving discounts, we were giving the money back,” said Craig Cordts-Pearce.

The city shut down the synthetic rink during the season last year, a call that the Hyatt is now appealing through the city’s hearing officer procedures.

Chris Bendon is representing the Hyatt in requesting council’s direction for what to do with the space this year. He said they would drop the appeal if a resolution could be reached with the council.

Bendon said the city’s notice to revoke the permit for the synthetic ice came without warning and that the Hyatt wasn’t given an opportunity to correct anything that was causing complaints. The Hyatt is proposing using the synthetic ice again but operating the rink itself this winter. The fractional-ownership lodge also presented an idea to turn the space into a “pocket park” that would have interactive structures and would still be a place for the public to recreate in for the season. They also discussed using the cold winter temperatures and frozen water to create a natural ice rink. Bendon noted that once the spring’s sunny days begin, that solution would most likely be unfeasible, thus shortening the season of the ice rink.

“We are not fully enthusiastic about that,” Bendon said. 

Council member Ann Mullins said she felt council was being backed into a corner by being forced to choose between unsatsfactory options with the winter season fast approaching. Council member Rachel Richards questioned why the Hyatt didn’t have money saved away to address the aging refrigeration system, as the upkeep is a requirement of the lease. The hotel property was given exceptions on certain development requirements and fees in exchange for providing the public park.

“Whether it was a failure of maintenance or lack of foresight, there seems there should be some look back to what were the giveaways,” Richards said.

The council voted to continue the discussion until early September to allow the applicant more time to research systems that would allow for a successful refrigerated or natural ice rink. They gave direction that they were not interested in seeing a proposal for a temporary pocket park this winter.

Bendon, council and staff all agreed that a larger public conversation about the use of downtown parcel should commence. Bendon said the Hyatt is thinking of other options that would keep a public use but also include underground parking or commercial development.

Alycin Bektesh is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at Alycin@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @alycinwonder.