By Jalen Wade
BOWIE – Following a 5-2 decision, the Bowie City Council elected to accept a $21.7 million bid made by Costello Construction to create a new two-sheet ice arena on July 1.
Councilmember Mark Rose executed the motion and included the stipulation that city staff must also present planning and cost ideas for rinks to the council at its second October meeting. The decision to build a new ice arena was initially denied at the June 3 meeting much to the ire of users of the rink.
The current Bowie Ice Arena, located on Northview Drive, has been in the community since 1971 with several different ice-based sports teams such as the Bowie Bruins Hockey team and Bowie’s figure skating team. According to the organizations that utilize the arena, it has needed repairs for quite some time on things such as leaky pipes and the structure itself.
The initial purpose of this meeting was to decide whether or not to take this decision to a referendum.
The decision to accept the bid came after a long series of discussions between the councilmembers. There was some tension regarding the ice rink between Councilmembers Michael Estéve and James Marcos.
Estéve was open to the referendum as it would allow public opinion to be heard on what direction the city should go. Estéve has been against the ice rink as well as similar recreational facilities such as the proposed renovations to the golf course.
“We’ve spent $3.5 million studying projects over the course of many years and have very little to show for it,” said Estéve.
The potential monetary cost of the rink on the city put him into conflict with Marcos, who justified the new arena as a staple of the community.
“This is an asset and a service the city has been providing for 30 years,” said Marcos, “I don’t get where you’re coming from putting this toward a referendum where you know people are going to say no.”
Marcos said to Estéve that he was not doing his job as a leader by going to referendum. That garnered him massive applause from the room full of supporters for the new rink.
Estéve pushed back against Marcos comments by stating that he and other members of the council were the ones who would have to deal with the tax cost.
“You’re not planning on being here next year, I am,” said Estéve.
Councilmember Dufour Woolfley was also opposed to the rink due to fear of a possible increase in taxes as well as not believing residents would want to pay for something that only majority non-residents would utilize.
While a majority of the audience was people who were in favor of the rink, there was also a group who opposed it due to the potential downsides such as an increase in traffic.
Linda Bailey, 54, took to the podium to protest the arena, arguing that there was no need for another rink.
“We were originally told there would be an ice rink and five courts. It was then baited and switched to an ice rink and another ice rink,” said Bailey, “We have the best parks and rec in the entire country, if we had this need for ice it would be on their capital improvement projects list (CIP).”
Bailey is a recreation specialist who works as the lead recreation specialist at a federal organization that serves the veterans. While on the podium, Bailey took issue with Mayor G. Frederick Robinson allowing the debate for the rink to take place.
“This whole project is nothing more than the legacy of Mayor Robinson who has been mayor forever and wants his name on a building,” said Bailey.
Supporters of the arena also spoke at the podium to plead their case for why they felt they needed a new ice rink. Parents, children, and coaches all came up to give impassioned speeches for what the ice arena meant to them and why it was essential to the community.
Worries over the approval of the new ice rink have been the ideas that Bowie court-based sports would be left to the wayside as a result of the rink project would absorb more funds. The audience felt that a compromise could be reached between both types of athletics.
“What happens here is that the debate we start to have here in this community is whether we should have courts or we should have ice and that’s a false choice that should be rejected by this community,” said Jason Dougal, a coach for the Bowie Bruins hockey club. “I don’t think we should be moving forward with courts in lieu of ice or ice in lieu of courts but thinking about both.”
When the time came for the council to decide whether or not to accept the bid, there was some initial hesitation.
Councilmember Henri Gardner attempted to push the motion for a decision to be held off until the next meeting so Costello Construction could provide more information about their plans. The audience was less than pleased with this idea. After a half-hour of discussion among the council, Gardener rescinded his motion and put forth his vote to accept the bid.
According to Assistant City Manager Daniel J. Mears in a memo to the council, the 77,400 square foot building will be located on Church Road near the Freeway Airport. Construction is expected to begin in the fall and be completed by the fourth quarter of 2020.