Editorials, Opinion

Investing in making a community

The wheels of bureaucracy do turn slowly.

We’ve followed the promised updates to the Morgantown Ice Arena for two years now, with new plans, new budgets and new start dates introduced at each meeting between BOPARC and the Mon County Commission. As of the latest discussion between BOPARC and Mills Group, the arena is looking at more of a renovation than a re-invention.

When you compare the original proposals from 2019 to what was agreed upon this past week, we’re getting the most essential elements (new slab, new insulated siding) and additional space for locker rooms, party areas, a mechanical/Zamboni space and administrative offices. What we aren’t getting are the second story and the second sheet of ice, and it seems a warming area isn’t in the new plans. Construction has also been pushed back, again, to 2023.

It’s a little disappointing, but we understand that revenues haven’t been as high as anticipated and pandemic-caused inflation has impacted the costs of construction. A more conservative approach to the ice rink is the right decision — for now.

The biggest concern, and one that has been brought up in past meetings, is that the current arena is, in essence, trying to maintain ice in a tin box. The proposed renovation, capped at $10 million (earlier plans were estimated at $13 million to $16 million), focuses on rebuilding the shell with the proper insulation. This should cut down future energy and operating costs.

Hopefully, the renovated building will draw in not only local ice skating enthusiasts, but also state and regional tournaments for ice-based athletics. Tournaments and competitions are huge money makers — for facilities and the surrounding communities alike.

We’d like to see the dollars saved from energy efficiency and brought in by future events  be put toward future improvements like the originally proposed second sheet of ice. We don’t want BOPARC to give up on the dream of an expanded, even year-round, facility.

Also discussed early last week was a complete revamp of Marilla Pool and Park. Whereas a more conservative approach to the ice rink makes sense, when it comes to Marilla, BOPARC should go big.

The proposal includes replacing the 60-year-old pool and adding other amenities. Ideas on the table: Lazy river, dedicated aerobics areas, water slides, splash pads, spraygrounds and a climbing wall. Responses to a community survey about the project revealed that patrons want shaded seating areas more than just about anything.

They are also looking to update the skate park into an “action sports park” that could serve cyclists and roller skaters just as well as the traditional skateboarders.

Marilla pool is a huge revenue generator, as far as recreational facilities go, so it makes sense to pull out all the stops to make it better than ever.

Investment in communal amenities is important. Opportunities for play and socialization help create and solidify the bonds that make cities like Morgantown not just a place you live but a community you’re a part of. That will always make the expense worth it.