Vail likely to replace town’s Dobson Ice Arena |

Vail likely to replace town’s Dobson Ice Arena

Project, part of the Civic Area Plan, is almost certain, with many other uncertainties

The Vail Civic Area Plan focuses mostly on the property including Dobson Ice Arena and the Lionshead parking structure. It also includes the Town Hall campus.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

Among all of the “to be determined” items in the Vail Civic Area Plan, there’s one certainty: It’s going to be expensive. Almost as certain is the idea that Dobson Ice Arena will be replaced.

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday heard an update about the plan, which lays out a vision of the town-owned property that includes the town’s library, ice arena, Lionshead parking structure and the municipal complex.

The planning process was spurred by the fact that the town has until the end of this decade to spend or lose roughly $30 million from a municipal improvement district for the Lionshead area. That district was created to help fund improvements in the area in the early years of this century. But that $30 million will be just a good down payment on one of the big projects.

For instance, a 2019 estimate put a $42 million price tag on the cost of a full replacement of Dobson with a 50,000-square-foot facility.

Council members said they’d favor a full replacement of the town’s 1970s, vintage ice arena instead of spending millions on a project that would only extend its life by a few years.

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A study of town financing options by consultant Andrew Knudtsen of Economic and Planning Systems showed a possibility of finding town sources ranging from creating a downtown development authority to creating a dedicated lodging tax. In all, those options — with varying degrees of political difficulty — could raise between $176 million to $263 million.

That still isn’t enough to do all the possible work, especially if town officials decide to build an events center just to the east of the Lionshead parking structure. That process will also require the town to find a new, permanent home for the Children’s Garden of Learning. That preschool moved earlier this year to the site once reserved for charter buses and RVs, but only for between three and five years.

That means looking for private-sector partners. To find a partner, and better define just what the plan might eventually look like, the town in 2022 will issue a request for qualifications.

That process will be preceded by a feasibility study on replacing the ice arena.

Vail Community Development Department Director Matt Gennett said a study about the ice arena could put a delay of 60 days or so in the process.

Knudtsen said that request for qualifications proposal should be specific enough that firms are interested in responding, but open enough to welcome additional ideas.

And, Gennett said, there seems to be plenty of interest in projects like this one.

“The trick is crafting (the request) to get what we need,” Gennett said.

Knudtsen said Vail is in an “unusually good” position to drive ideas.

“This will be an exciting process,” he said.

What will this cost?

Here’s a 2019 estimate of possible costs for big parts of potential improvements in Vail’s “Civic Area.” Those costs have all increased.

$10 million: Estimate for a 20,000-square-foot addition to the Lionshead Parking Structure.

$42 million: Estimate for a full, 55,000-square-foot replacement of Dobson Ice Arena.

$25 million: Estimate for a 27,000-square-foot replacement of the Vail Municipal Building.

$55 million: Estimate for a 50,000-square-foot multipurpose event facility.

Source: Economic and Planning Systems


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