MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The decision to award the project for renovations to the Morgantown Ice Arena has been delayed for at least a week while project analysis continues, according to BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Wiles.
The information was released during a Wednesday of the BOPARC Board.
Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble and a BOPARC member had previously expressed concern that only one of the four companies that attended the pre-bid meeting had submitted a bid. Additionally, the cost of the project was estimated at $11.5 million, but the bid received was nearly $13 million.
“The Mills Group is still working through all these specifications and comparative analyses to qualify these bids,” Wiles said. “So, all of these numbers are very preliminary and we want to give them time to do that.”
The current project strips everything but the skeleton and adds a single sheet of ice, a new chiller system, a concourse, a new dehumidification system, bleachers and an upgraded visitor experience. The project does not remove wooden beams that were part of the original construction.
Members of the Morgantown Hockey Association (MHA) have told members of the BOPARC board and Morgantown City Council that the project is too expensive based on the expertise available to them. President Frank Oliverio said they have people from the Pittsburgh area and the Penguins organization that can build a larger, new facility for around $6 million.
“I think part of the problem with the bid and the dollar amount is you’re trying to shoehorn in something that can’t be done,” Oliverio said. “I correct myself, it can be done, anything can be done with enough money and that’s my problem.”
Don Spencer, founder of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) and former WVU Men’s Hockey head coach and general manager, was part of the team that designed the original facility in the 1970s. He said they traveled the region looking at other hockey facilities to incorporate those features into the Morgantown Ice Arena. However, Spencer said the architect used on the project had no experience in ice rink design.
That, he says, explains the beams that so many have said restrict sightlines and make it impossible for fans to view the action completely.
“Those beams were part of the picnic shelter mindset that the architect was most familiar with,” Spencer explained. “So what I would do is encourage you to follow up on some of these suggestions.”
MHA member Matt Nelson urged the BOPARC board to pause, look around, and be open to different designs that could advance other segments of the community. Nelson referred to the proposed makeover as “putting lipstick on a pig” and said if the city is committed to spending more than $11.5 million, they should seek alternatives to maximize the investment.
“If we’re committed to $14 million, I’m sure we can do something that involves much more than a half sheet of ice, maybe another half-sheet, or maybe a climbing wall,” Nelson said. “Maybe it involves other community members as well, and maybe we can start competing with what Bridgeport is doing.”
Trumble told the 15 to 20 MHA members on hand she was going to learn more about what is in the project bid received and what other options could be available to upgrade the facility.
“I will definitely take the next week, or however long we have, and look into it and try to get more questions answered,” Trumble said. “Just know, I’m listening and trying to make the best use of funds.”
A special BOPARC meeting will be scheduled at which a decision could be made about the project.