Grownups may be bubble's only hope

Scott N. Miller
August 29, 2004

VAIL - This is it. Really.

Local skaters have until roughly 5 p.m. on Tuesday to sign contracts and write deposit checks for ice time at Dobson Ice Arena, and, yes, just maybe, the Vail ice bubble.

After several weeks of lobbying and scrambling, a loosely-organized group called the Valley Wide Ice Users Alliance will meet with the Vail Recreation District Board to see if there's enough pen-to--paper interest to justify raising the bubble for yet another season atop the driving range at the Vail Golf Course in East Vail.

To demonstrate demand ice users have created spreadsheets detailing the numbers of people who want ice time and what they want it for, managing to effectively fill a winter's schedule.

 Check it out

Vail Recreation District officials say they need commitments for:

$320,000 worth of ice time at Dobson

$111,000 worth of ice time at the bubble

Contracts, with deposit checks, need to be signed by Aug. 31

The Vail Recreation District Board meets in special session at 5 p.m. Aug. 31.

"Our core group has done all it can, now it's time to show them the money," alliance member Stephen Connolly said.

If the money comes, there's a good chance the recreation district will agree to run the bubble one more year, board member Peter Cook said. And if the recreation district gets on board, Vail Town Council members have said they'll consider putting up the inflatable structure for one more season.

Town officials earlier this year were pondering what to do with the bubble, including putting it up for sale, after the recreation board announced it would not manage the bubble again due to continuing operating losses. The district lost more than $33,000 running the bubble last season.

With the bubble's demise apparently a done deal, the ice users again began lobbying the Vail Town Council. At a July meeting, the group was urged to takes its case to the recreation district.

Since then, the group has crunched numbers, rang phones and generally organized an all-out effort to keep two sheets of ice in Vail. The biggest surprise from the number crunching was just who wanted ice time, Connolly said.

"Adult hockey is really what's driving this," Connolly said. "Across the country adult hockey is the fastest growing part of the sport."

Adults also seem ready to write checks.

"The adult users are committed. If we need to pay more, we'll try to find a way to do it," alliance member Laurie Mullins said.

Mullins, a member of a women's hockey league, said she's optimistic the bubble can rise another season. So is recreation district board member Peter Cook.

"I hope they get it done," Cook said. "That would be a resurgence in demand for ice."

But the checks have to roll in, he said.

"Everybody's talked about this in the past," Cook said. "Last year we believed (ice time would be filled). This year they have to prove it."

Alliance members intend to provide that proof, Connolly said.

"The (rec district) has all the right in the world to be gun-shy about our talking about growth," Connolly said. "But we think we can grow."

If that growth does happen, it will be due to abundant ice time.

"We're showing this is a hockey town," Mullins said. "We don't want that momentum to stop."

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or

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