Ice bubble to stay in storage

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NWS Ice Bubble1 SM 3-13 Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Vail is trying to decide what to do with the Ice Bubble, Keep it here in Vail or sell it to Edwards

Scott N. Miller
September 3, 2004

VAIL - The bubble has burst.

After spending nearly two months providing facts and figures, a group of local skaters ultimately came up short in a drive to wring one more season from the Vail ice bubble, which has stood at the golf course in East Vail the last few winters.

The Vail Recreation District board voted 5-0 Tuesday not to operate the bubble for the coming season. Board members also voted to provide up to $5,000 for another year of storage for the facility.

For board members, Tuesday's vote reinforced a decision made months ago. Earlier this year, the board had voted not to operate the bubble, citing continuing operating losses and lack of use of the ice rink.

In turn, the Vail Town Council, which owns the bubble, began pondering what to do with the bubble, especially since off-season storage costs are in the neighborhood of $10,000. When discussions turned to selling the bubble, local skaters jumped into the fray, urging the council to keep the inflatable structure.

The council in July agreed to keep the bubble another year, but when the issue of running the facility came up, local skaters were sent to the recreation district.

The result was something like a last-minute "pull the goalie" drill in hockey, with the ad hoc Valley Wide Ice Users group working feverishly to prove enough demand existed to run Dobson Ice Arena in Vail, the new ice rink in Eagle and the bubble.

The drill peaked following the Aug. 24 recreation district board meeting, when members told skaters to put pen to paper in the form of contracts for ice use and deposit checks to pay for the time.

Several contracts were signed over the week, but just one check was received.

Meanwhile, Dobson manager Irv Gladstone went to work on a schedule to fit every known user group into a time slot at the arena. The resulting schedule runs from 5:45 a.m. to midnight, but, Gladstone said, every group he's aware of got ice time.

Fitting users into the time available at Dobson was board member Peter Cook's main concern. But Ginny Crowley, who last year co-founded a women's hockey league that plays in both Vail and Eagle, said the current schedule allows no room for growth.

"If we have any growth at all, we'll need the bubble," Crowley said. "You're settling for the status quo here. You're telling your users you don't want to grow."

The main issue, though, is whether the district could reasonably balance the expense of running the bubble against the number of people served, Cook said.

"We just can't spend big money for small increments in service and that's what the bubble has been," Cook said.

While user groups were all fit into Dobson, a continuing problem for skaters is ice time when the arena is used for special events.

The biggest concern is Feb. 5 to 12, when the National Brotherhood of Skiers holds its annual convention in Vail. That convention happens to hit just before the state's high school hockey playoffs, which could put Battle Mountain High School's team off the ice at a crucial time.

The Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District has agreed to provide at least some ice time for Dobson users during the convention, Vail rec district director Dennis Stein said.

And board member Nino Liccardi encouraged Stein to keep working with the National Brotherhood of Skiers to free up at least some ice time during the convention.

While skaters were obviously disappointed in the decision, board members encouraged them to continue working to expand their programs.

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

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado