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Morgantown Ice Arena project bids rejected; Mylan Park takes the ice

MORGANTOWN — BOPARC’s Morgantown Ice Arena project as currently presented is off.

Mylan Park is getting into the ice business.

Those were the two major takeaways from a brief special meeting Wednesday morning during which BOPARC’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to reject the bids received for an overhaul of the Morgantown Ice Arena some six years in the planning.

The reasoning behind the vote came down to two major issues.

Number one is money.

Based on the submissions received by a lone bidder, the cost of the project to strip the existing facility down to its wooden skeleton and rebuild it had ballooned to nearly $15 million, significantly beyond the original projections of $10 million to $11.5 million.

Further, the project has received strong pushback from two of its primary user groups, the Morgantown Hockey Association and WVU Hockey, both of which argued that the building’s wooden supports are the one feature that need to go as they substantially impair the ability to watch the action on the ice.

But the beams ultimately restricted more than spectator sight lines. They represented a restriction to BOPARC as well.

While the majority of the ice arena project was to be funded by bonds backed by BOPARC’s portion of the city’s municipal sales tax, this project was also the BOPARC-designated target of county-wide parks and recreation levy funds initially passed by voters in 2016 and renewed in 2020 — a total of about $3.5 million over the life of both levies. Because the levy language specified the funds were for improvements and upgrades to the existing facility, BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Wiles said BOPARC was advised by representatives of the state auditor’s office that it couldn’t use levy dollars to build a new facility, as MHA and WVU have suggested.

Enter Mylan Park.

“Mylan Park is exploring construction of a new rink that serves the purpose of hosting leagues and tournaments for [Morgantown Hockey Association] and WVU Hockey,” Wiles said.

“If WVU and MHA plan to use a different facility built with a focus on competitive hockey and tournament use if constructed at Mylan Park, our facility would best be used to offer community recreation — public skating, figure skating, lessons, curling, BOPARC adult and youth programs, etc.”

Wiles said BOPARC would pivot to researching needed ice arena improvements in support of the purposes listed above.

The meeting ended with a joint statement from BOPARC and Mylan Park, read by BOPARC President Danielle Trumble.

“We are committed to looking at how BOPARC can make more reasonable improvements to the Morgantown Ice Arena for general community use while Mylan Park researches the feasibility of construction of a new event and tournament-based facility,” Trumble said. “The hope is that these facilities would complement each other to serve everyone within our community.”

The city of Morgantown, BOPARC and Mylan Park intend to use the next six months taking public input and exploring the costs and benefits of this joint, multiple-facility approach.

“We are hopeful that together we can create a solution that not only meets community members’ needs but improves the quality of life and overall health and wellness on a local level,” President of the Mylan Park Foundation Board of Directors Ron Justice said.