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Wareham: Let’s ‘STIC’ together

Greg Risling

The man behind South Lake Tahoe’s vacant ice rink will make a last-ditch attempt to open the recreation facility next month before the city evicts its financially strapped tenant.

John Wareham will turn to his last hope, Tahoe residents, for a new direction to keep the operation running. He has called an Oct. 8 meeting in what will probably be his final plea to save the ice rink. Wareham anticipates a large crowd.

“I’m looking for any ideas that could keep the ice rink open and I hope the public can help,” Wareham said.

The magic figure to open the South Tahoe Ice Center on November 1 is $50,000, an amount that is minuscule to the nearly $400,000 owed in unpaid construction costs and other debts incurred during the past year.

The City Council was going to analyze the fiscal problems associated with the center at Tuesday’s meeting, but the agenda item has been delayed for two weeks at Wareham’s request.

Excited about the prospects of a successful venture, Wareham went ahead with construction last year on the rink, located on Rufus Allen Boulevard. The contractor, V & C Construction, went ahead with the work but found out later the check wasn’t in the mail. The rink was finished, but investments hadn’t been firmed up. V & C is still trying to recoup $200,000 and owner Ray Van Winkle, Sr. put a lien on any improvements made to the facility.

The city, which owns the property and would receive 5 percent of the skating revenues, has the option to close the rink permanently if it remains closed for more than 210 days.

Wareham and the city disagree on the last day of operation. Wareham says it was April 5.

If the ice rink concept melts, a legal battle may ensue between the city and Van Winkle. The city could be prohibited from using the land until Van Winkle is paid.

Wareham admits he can’t make any guarantees – with the exception of an investor who has pledged $30,000 – at this point. His recent road trip proved unsuccessful, because potential buyers shied away from two sticking points: the rink’s limited history and the debt. Wareham still believes operating on a shoestring is better than going belly-up.

“This may be the best chance to have an ice center in Tahoe,” he said. “The rink may get lost forever. I never wanted to trouble the community with this, but now there is no other way.”

Although the city hasn’t looked for any investors, Mark Heidt said the rink could be a major attraction. A Canadian native and “born with skates on,” he was contracted to be director of the STIC’s hockey operations. When financing went sour, Heidt bailed. He said that Wareham must step aside if the center is going to succeed.

“He’s been unsuccessful in landing investors up to this point,” Heidt said. “How many strikes do you give a ballplayer when he bats? It’s been tough for John, but how much longer are people going to wait for the rink?”

breakout box

What: South Tahoe Ice Center meeting

Where: 1176 Rufus Allen Blvd.

When: Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.


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