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STIC gets another month

Greg Risling

In an attempt to keep the South Tahoe Ice Center debacle out of the judge’s hands, the city has granted a 30-day extension to the construction company that put a lien on the property.

By pushing back another deadline, the city avoids a possible court battle over the STIC property with V & C Construction and also gives a recently formed citizens group more time to save the rink from possible further demise.

V & C owner Ray Van Winkle had the opportunity to take STIC and its president, John Wareham, to court as of Nov. 3 for his company’s work on the ice rink last fall. Van Winkle is trying to recover more than $200,000 in unpaid construction costs.

Since STIC’s lease has expired, the city, acting as the landlord, can rent the property to another tenant. Van Winkle could, in turn, block any future development on the Rufus Allen Boulevard property until he recoups his losses.

V & C can proceed with litigation after Dec. 3 unless mitigating factors have changed the rink’s bleak outlook.

A citizens group wants to bring the facility back from the brink of disaster. Group members are scheduled to present a business plan to the City Council on Nov. 18, but with the city’s recent announcement, they may return in December with more detailed information. They met with Van Winkle’s attorney on Monday.

“We’ve talked with a few of the creditors, and the unanimous feeling is they want to see the ice center open and are willing to wait,” said Steve Yonker, one of the citizens group members. “I think they want to make sure a business plan is in place and there is management with expertise in the skating arena.”

The organization, which wants establish nonprofit status, estimates that it would take $50,000 to reopen the ice center. Any profits accumulated at the end of the skating season would be given to creditors. Wareham also indicated that contracts signed by sponsors who planned to advertise at the rink will be honored.

Van Winkle said he hasn’t seen any numbers from the citizens group yet, but he is willing to hang in there if it’s worthwhile to the community.

“If they are going to have a plan that works, I don’t have a problem,” he said. “But if they are going to bumble and stumble, then I don’t approve. I’m not going to lose the only hold I have on ever getting paid.”

Van Winkle has waited patiently for a check for more than a year. Funding for the STIC fell through last fall after construction began. After stormy weather, the rink opened in January and produced good results for about a month. Unusually warm temperatures caused the rink to close because the cooling system was unable to keep the ice frozen under direct sunlight.

Wareham’s popularity has declined in recent months due to his inability to pay off creditors. Admitting he has failed the public’s expectations for the ice center, he stepped aside last month.

Yonker, speaking on his own behalf, added it may be in the best interest of the community to open the rink next winter.

“My gut feeling is that it may be difficult to get this off the ground this winter,” he said. “I’d rather pay the price and lose a season than go half-cocked and disappoint the community.”


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