By Jalen Wade
BOWIE – As residents prepare to see the renderings and updates on the new proposed ice rink coming to Bowie in the future, city officials are still unclear about the future of the original Bowie Ice Arena.
Located at Allen Pond on Northview Drive, the Bowie Ice Arena has been a part of the community since 1971 and is the home to teams such as the hockey team the Bowie Bruins and the figure skating team.
When the Bowie City Council voted to build a new ice rink on Church Ave. on July 1, the meeting agenda and memo did not mention plans for the future of the older facility. City Manager Al Lott said that the future for the original ice rink is still undecided at this time.
The future of the Bowie Ice Arena or when the council plan to discuss the topic is still unknown at this time.
“The council currently has not decided on what will happen to that arena,” said Lott.
According to City Councilmember James Marcos, the original rink has been in heavy disrepair for quite some time. Marcos described the facility as being “physically unfit” with numerous issues in areas such as roofing, refrigeration and support structures.
Councilmember Michael Estevé stated that he believes the current plan should be to demolish the older rink. He also supports the idea of repurposing the area for other sports and activities.
During the July 1 council meeting, Estevé was highly opposed to building a new ice arena. He feared that it would be too costly when there are still other investments that the city’s paying and it will be used by people from neighboring areas as opposed to residents.
“My goal is to continue having ice in Bowie but in a way, that’s responsible and economical to taxpayers,” said Estevé. “Keep in mind only 25% of the rink’s organized users live in the city.”
An earlier option that was considered was simply maintaining the arena. Estevé himself supported the idea to have the current arena managed and maintained by Black Bear Sports Group, who own the Maryland Black Bears hockey team. This notion, however, did not gain much traction among the other councilmembers.
“We had two other options–a private company willing to take over and manage a refurbished rink at no cost to city taxpayers, and a potential partnership with M-NCPPC (Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission) to help contain costs,” said Estevé. “A majority on the council rejected both options without seriously exploring them and chose to pursue two new rinks entirely at city taxpayers’ expense.”
Estevé is not the only one who feels that the new facility is a waste. Linda Bailey, a Bowie resident who works as a recreation specialist at a local organization for veterans, said the money could be better spent towards other groups that might have recreational needs that are not being met. She also had criticisms at the new rink was voted on because it went against the initial proposal that the council put forth.
“We were told they were looking at one new ice rink and five new courts. That was changed to two ice rinks and the reason they said that was changed was it would cover the operating costs for the ice rinks,” Bailey said. “It may cover the operating costs but it doesn’t cover the $25-plus million it’s going to take to build the facility.”
Bailey acknowledged that there is a need for one new rink due to the structural issues inside the older facility. However, having two rinks with one not being used at all is a waste of resources.
On the opposite side of the issue is Marcos, who said that there is an “absolutely” feeling that there is a need for the ice rink in the community. An ice rink has been a service that has been in the community for decades which is a benefit to the city’s youth, he added.
“I feel that it serves our youth very well,” said Marcos. “My son was in the hockey program and I saw a lot of troubled kids that weren’t doing anything and once they got involved in the program it really opened up their path and opened up new friendships to where it really opened up their future.”