Concerns grow over Royal Oak ice rink as negotiations continue

Posted at 10:53 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 23:18:44-04

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — A proposal to build an ice rink in Royal Oak's Centennial Commons is being met with some opposition.

The event producer is still in negotiations with the city attorney. They're discussing issues of cost and how the project will impact the park's green space.

The idea was born out of last year's winter blast. Organizers built an ice rink and by in large, it was a huge success. Now they want to make it more permanent, but undertaking is anything but simple.

Alex and Anjani Hundich were enjoying Centennial Commons for the first time Friday afternoon. Come fall, about one-third of the park’s green space could be covered by an ice rink. It would operate from mid-November to early February.

"Being only a seasonal thing would be kind of interesting. We went to Wayne State downtown and we'd go to Campus Martius all the time, that ice rink, and I mean it draws a lot of people," Alex Hundich said.

Event promoter Jon Witz says that's the idea. More outdoor activities in the city, and a boost for the local economy.

“I have pledged to raise $100,000 in sponsorship. People who use the rink are projected to do over $100,00 in rink fees and skate rentals to support the cost, and the city would come in for the rest," Witz said.

Pat Paruch was one of two commissioners to express concerns about the proposal, particularly when it comes to cost.

In a statement she said: "A city ice rink would be cool, but I have serious concerns about the estimated $550,000 cost. And the idea of removing the green turf from almost a third of the new park for months in the spring."

Witz said, “This is built as a one-year trial to see how this could work, is it viable, do the businesses benefit, do the citizens use it. And we will put the park right back where it was and it will be ready for use by mid-May."

Electricity to run the rink is another point of contention. It's still unknown if DTE Energy can provide direct power. In a public notice the city manager said:

"If DTE power is not available, a portable generator would be needed at an additional cost of $152,000. City staff agrees with JWA (Jon Witz and Associates) that DTE Energy’s participation is critical and that a $500,000+ installation cost is untenable."

The initial proposal included putting large generators on the grass that would be permanent.

“We are not looking at doing that anymore. We are looking at putting boxes in another location and running conduit and that would make the cost lower," Witz said. "You'll get an electrical solution that will not only work for the rink this year, but it will work for the rink in future years, and it was also power up an occasional summer concert."

The idea of the rink has the support of a number retailers and restaurants.

“I think it’s of immense value from the standpoint of bringing more people not just in Royal Oak but outside the Royal Oak area," MI Nutrition owner Dalton Criswell said.

Hundich says as a taxpayer, he wants to know the total cost.

"I wouldn't say I am fully supportive right now, but I'd like to be informed a little bit more," Hundich said.

Sod at the park would need to be replaced every year the rink is in existence. The city estimates that would cost about $5,000.

The rink is not a done deal and ultimately, taxpayers will have to foot some of the bill.