STIC status still on ice |

STIC status still on ice

Greg Risling

Landing investors for a South Tahoe ice rink may be as formidable as sticking a triple axle.

Several months after closing the frigid facility, operator John Wareham plans to meet with city officials later this week to mull over financing options for the ice center. Wareham has unsucessfully sought potential investors over the last year.

Wareham has indicated that a Southern California businessman has pledged $30,000 to the project and by next week he may have more people on board. He said the search for investors has been excruciating because the rink doesn’t have a lengthy track record.

“I think some of them want to wait and see what happens this winter before opening their wallet,” Wareham said, pointing to a five-week period where the rink brought in $50,000. “I think the town can show outside investors that we can support an ice rink.”

As the seasons change – the ice rink is scheduled to open in late October – Wareham will have to answer specifics about overdue bills and future plans for the rink.

The 1.25 acre South Tahoe Ice Center, located on Rufus Allen Boulevard, was built last year without secured investments. Expecting the public would swarm to the outdoor oval, the rink’s premiere was beset with bad weather. Wareham incurred construction debts while he continued to look for financing.

He stated that $200,000 is owed to V & C Construction for work prior to opening in January. Creditors will also have to be paid another $200,000 in associated costs.

V&C head Ray Van Winkle, Sr. had put a lien on improvements to the property and there was mention the company would take the rink.

Conversations between Van Winkle and Wareham reportedly have the Gardnerville-based construction company not pursuing the option.

Wareham has tried several alternatives to pay creditors, including a private stock offering and a possible purchase by local shareholders. Both plans never got off the ground.

The plan now is to enclose the rink. A roof, along with a pro shop and other concessions could bring the total project cost to $1.6 million. There has apparently been nothing but praise for an ice rink in Tahoe but the best intentions don’t always produce a successful result, said South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Hal Cole.

“I think John (Wareham) honestly believed if you build it they will come,” Cole said. “The most frustrating thing has been that we don’t have an operating ice center and people weren’t paid. I don’t think we can take what John says at face value anymore. We need tangible information.”

The city receives 5 percent from the skating revenues and has the option to shut the rink down for failure to operate for more than 210 days. The rink closed in mid-March because of warm weather but re-opened in April for a short duration.

City officials have said previously the center should stay a private venture but if Wareham can’t find the money, city officials may court another tenant.

“The fact is I made a mistake,” Wareham said. “We tried to push ahead with an optimistic view of having funding in place. I think the city is tired of this languishing. I’d like to find out if they want to help us open the rink or they are trying to play hardball.”

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