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Common Council members ponder next move in ice rink controversy

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Courtesy Buffalo Skating Club

By Michael Mroziak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-986288.mp3

Buffalo – Three Buffalo Common Council members who represent districts that are home to the city's three public-owned rinks hosted a meeting yesterday in City Hall to hear concerns from groups that regularly use the rinks, including organizations which have recently taken over daily operations of those facilities.

To help meet the rising cost of managing the rinks, the operators forwarded a request earlier this summer to raise hourly ice rental rates. The Common Council approved the rate increases, but soon after the Brown administration vetoed the rate hikes, reverting back to rates at 80-dollars per hour for city residents, a rate set in 2004.

Operators complained that they were led to believe they could negotiate their rates and sought prices that they say were in line with what the county was charging during its five-year period of managing the rinks. The city rates set back in 2004, they say, are inadequate.

"We work within the means of our finance committee, trying to do things. You just can't run a rink at 80 dollars an hour full-scale with all those hours there," said Sean Green of Hasek's Heroes, which assists the city in management of the Cazenovia and Riverside rinks. "Gas has gone up, insurance has gone up, everything's gone up in the past eight years and yet we're going to go back seven or eight years to rates back then."

One of the presidents of the local youth hockey associations that regularly use Buffalo's public rinks suggested that even at the level of the proposed rate hikes (in the case of Buffalo Bisons Hockey, $120 for resident/youth programs and $150 for non-resident/adult programs), the hourly charges are still a bargain compared to rates charged at both public and private rinks in the suburbs, where some rates begin closer to $200 per hour.

Still, the proposed rate hikes for Buffalo's rinks have some ice programs concerned about the impact on their own membership.

"If the rates were to go up significantly, what was mentioned, maybe at $185 per hour for ice time, that would have a devastating effect on our club," said Marsha Huard of the Buffalo Speedskating Club.