The ice skating rink at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center might be left out in the cold amid a budget crisis.

As the city of Santa Fe tries to plug a projected $100 million budget shortfall in the fiscal year that begins Wednesday, the Parks and Recreation Department is considering keeping the ice skating rink closed or even transforming it into an indoor multipurpose field for soccer and other sports.

“Nobody wants to eliminate services and remove the ice rink, but we do have a financial crisis like we’ve not seen before due to the [coronavirus] pandemic,” John Muñoz, the city’s parks and recreation director, said Monday.

Muñoz emphasized no decisions have been made and that repurposing the ice skating rink, which he said is the section of the Chavez Center that loses the most money, is one of several ideas under consideration. Other options on the table include raising rates and creating a fund to which people could donate money “to keep that wonderful program going,” he said.

Muñoz said the ice rink loses on average $336,000 annually, based on five years of data.

“Obviously, this needs to go to the mayor and to the City Council and other decision-makers, but there’s definitely several ideas about the ice rink,” Muñoz said. “While it’s a wonderful thing — it’s a neat thing to have in New Mexico — it is also very expensive and very costly to maintain.”

The possibility of doing away with the ice skating rink, which is generating stiff opposition from people who routinely used the facility before the pandemic, reflects the difficult and unpopular choices elected officials face due to the financial shock waves created by the pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the state and global economy.

“We get the financial situation facing the city,” said Tammy Berendzen, president of the Santa Fe Skating Club, which has put on events that have attracted top-flight talent to perform at the rink.

“If the city needs to find a way to save money and they deem the best way to do that is to keep parts of the Chavez Center closed for this year, we’re fine with that,” she said. “But when things can reopen, when it’s safe to do so, when it’s financially feasible to that, we still want a rink in Santa Fe.”

Will Briggs, president of the Santa Fe Hockey Association, said he, too, understood the city’s financial constraints. But even a year-long closure would affect young people and others who participate in less traditional sports in New Mexico, such as hockey, figure skating and curling.

“Santa Fe has turned out a lot of hockey players that have gone on to play Triple-A hockey and some Division III hockey for college,” he said. “It’s definitely given opportunities to kids that have been able to excel at it.”

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Muñoz said the city is trying to figure out how to make ends meet right now.

“We’ve looked at different sections throughout the city to see where we can become efficient, where we’re losing the most money, where perhaps there’s different ways of doing things to where we don’t lose as much money,” he said.

While Briggs and Berendzen questioned whether the ice skating rink was the area of the Chavez Center that loses the most money, Muñoz said the numbers show it requires the biggest subsidy from the city.

“The purpose isn’t really to pit one section against another,” he said. “We’re looking at this as objectively as possible.”

Revelations the city is considering keeping the ice skating rink closed or turning it into an indoor multipurpose field, which Muñoz said couldn’t be accomplished amid an unprecedented budget deficit, come as the Parks and Recreation Department prepares to open portions of the Chavez Center under reduced hours July 13.

The recreation center, which has been closed since March because of the pandemic, will open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays. The facility will remain closed Sundays.

The fitness center will be open, but certain pieces of equipment and areas will be off-limits as part of an effort to maintain a 6-foot separation among patrons. Water fountains will be “taped off as well, so we’re encouraging people to bring in their own water or beverage containers and to take them home with them,” Muñoz said.

The pool will be open but only for lap swimming. The showers will be closed.

“Generally, NMED [the New Mexico Environment Department] has a requirement to shower before using the pool, and they have given us a waiver or changed their process temporarily for that, so people are encouraged strongly to shower at home before and after their swim session,” Muñoz said.

There are no immediate plans to reopen the Fort Marcy or Salvador Perez recreation complexes or Bicentennial Pool. The Salvador Perez Recreation Complex is undergoing a major remodel that is nearing completion.

“Right now, we’re going to start with the Genoveva Chavez Center and work through our processes there,” said Muñoz, who called it a soft opening.

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(16) comments

Michael Schneider

In addition to the hundreds of hockey players, competitive skaters and curlers that have enjoyed the rink, there have been even more recreational summer youth camp, family Friday night skate, and school learn to skate participants over the past two decades that have experienced the utter joy of navigating ice on a thin steel blade. Moving forward with the idea of eliminating our rink is akin to uprooting a mature pinyon that is stressed from drought but has a healthy and expansive root system. Let’s be wise Santa Fe!

Joel Berendzen

We forget from whence we came.

The council resolution that launched the building process mentioned a petition with 13,000 signatures in support of an ice rink. There was no mention of a pool at all. Now Parks & Rec threatens a permanent end to the ice on the basis of "loss per user", replacing the world-class ice rink with a 5x5 indoor soccer field.

Do not believe the cost-per-user argument. There are three factors that go into loss per user: costs, revenues, and users. In the numbers I've seen, all three factors are seriously flawed, flaws that make the rink seem worse than it is.

Why should cost-per-user be the determinant of whether a facility is permanently closed, anyway? Don't conflate temporary closure with destroying a community that took man-years of volunteer effort to build. If cost per user is a criterion, we'll also have to eliminate the golf course in favor of, say, frisbee golfing. Our city can afford a golf course, an ice rink, *and* an indoor soccer stadium once we are back to being ourselves. Just don't kill off the hopes of those of us who love to be on the ice. Revenues will come back eventually. Hope won't.

What we can't afford is continued mismanagement by Parks & Rec, continued lack of direction by City Councils. The City would like you to think the mismanagement is all a problem of the past, but the recent job-reclassification fiasco would indicate otherwise. So is the lack of a permanent GCCC facility manager for the last 2+ years. I place the general lack of vision for the GCCC, though, at the feet of the City Council. If they had said to Parks & Rec, "Talk with the users, come up with ideas", Santa Fe's creativity could have been harnessed instead of frustrated. For instance, most ice rinks see use from 6 am till midnight, but ours is hampered by lack of separate access. The building could be the key infrastructure for Santa Fe as a player in regional athlete development and training.

Councilors, don't let Parks & Rec kill the ice rink, we need the thought of it now to help us through tough times.

Laraine Clark

Of course, the city wants to shut down the only predominantly female sport! Such hypocrisy.

David Ennis

We need action in order to save the ice rink from closure. Please call your two City Councilors and the Mayor and tell them that you want the ice rink to remain open and not converted to a multipurpose facility. Keep what makes Santa Fe unique.

Carl Muller

Not mentioned here is the fact they just spent nearly $1M to upgrade the ice cooling unit and other upgrades. So you spend the money and then never use it? That would be a total waste of money by the City. Parks and Rec director should step down if they want to save some money.

Also a multipurpose field for soccer wouldn't even fit in the space. How do you cram a 300 foot by 200 foot field into a 200 foot by 85 foot space? There are two city parks within walking distance of the field with open field areas where a "soccer program" has never been attempted.

Complete shortsighted approach and wasted tax dollars by this administration to even consider changing the rink.

Rob Woods

Santa Fe has the dubious reputation of not having amenities for kids. To shut down the ONLY ice rink in Santa Fe is simply irresponsible governance and only perpetuates this notion that the city does not provide amenities for its youth. This is also a short sighted view given that the rink is a long term economic driver attracting people and activities. When considering the whole picture of the associated economic benefits it is really a drop in the bucket when it comes to the entire city budget. If the city was really concerned with the financial impacts it would consider ways to increase funding through raising rental fees, rates and fundraising rather than just outright closure. Let’s protect our youth activities!

Michael Ortiz

I wonder if anybody in the City realize that the Mac in Rio Rancho used to have an indoor soccer field. It is now basketball courts and baseball cages. One of the reasons for that was because the soccer field got very little use. Now they want to do the same here.

Michael Ortiz

The mayor is only including skate fees and ice rental when figuring out the income of the rink. There is so much more revenue that the ice rink provides. I asked the mayor and his financial person Mr. Fluetsch the following questions but they refuse to answer:

Does the Skate Rental-GCCC line only include the $3 for renting the skates and not the amount patrons paid to get in or does it include the full fee patrons pay?

If you have your own skates, does the drop in fee you pay get included in the Skate Rental-GCCC line?

When SF skate club has freestyle they have to pay a fee even if they are members. Is that included and if so where?

When Figure skate coaches have lessons they pay a fee. Is that included and if so where?

People have parties. Is that amount included and if so where?

The skate shop sharpens skates (different amounts for overnight or day). Is that included?

How are you allocating revenue (if at all) daily admissions?

How are you allocating revenue (if at all) for Memberships (1 mo, 3 mo, annual, family)?

How are 10 visit punch pass revenue allocated?

How are Get Fit for Life pass revenue allocated?

How are Ice member and Ice-non-member punch pass revenue allocated?

How is revenue generated from summer camps allocated to the ice rink?

How is revenue generated from after school camps allocated to the ice rink?

How is revenue generated form clinics (private clinics like Grunnah, power skating camps) allocated to the ice rink?

How is revenue generated from SITS (Skating In The Schools) allocated to the ice rink?

How is revenue generated from the Health Fairs allocated to the ice rink?

How is revenue generated from vendors that setup shop during annual SF Skatefest 3 day weekend that come form around the southwest allocated to the ice rink?

What about locker rental that hockey and skating patrons pay for?

The mayor is going to "show" a 32oK loss for 2018 for the ice rink but the whole GCCC was subsidized well over 3 million based on the 2018 Annual CAFR. Also the mayor and his financial people refuse to share the same analysis they did for the rink for the pool,weight room, and other areas of the GCCC. Seems they have a hidden agenda in closing the ice rink permanently.

William Craig is the link for the June 16th Chávez press release that seems to be the latest info.

The rink in Rio Rancho is apparently up and running, according to their facebook page at:

The rink on Tramway in Albuquerque said it was going to reopen June 27th, but the latest dictate from the governess evidently quashed that, according to their page at:

Michael Judge

It would be beneficial if the city officials could break down exactly how each portion of the center is reconciled for cost.

The "data" provided by the city is suspect at best and should be carefully broken down before any decisions are made. The ice arena

charges for ice time - whether it is figure skating, hockey or curling. The center charges league fees for their very successful adult hockey

leagues. Drop-in training are an addtional cost as well.

The article doesn't mention that the city just invested in a huge refresh of the ice rink, including new mechanical equipment that should

make the center even more efficient.

Youth hockey, and hockey in general is one of the fastest growing sports in America. Here in Santa Fe we are fortunate to have an excellent year round resource for our skating community in a state that sorely lacks other facilities. The arena is specifically built tobe utilized as an ice rink and any other use of that facility would

not be in the highest and best use.

The ice arena should be viewed as an asset not a liability.

Rather than take the easy way out, the city should be looking to make it work. Let's look at opening safely - I for one would gladly see a change in fee structure. Once the recovery begin skating events draw people from all over the southwest area - a source of gross receipts for those coming to town to participate.

Dan Frazier

I'm sure one of the big costs involved with the ice rink is the ice. Perhaps the rink could be turned into a roller-skating rink. Or, some ice rinks are converting to a kind of synthetic surface that is compatible with ice-skates. It does require water for cleaning and maintenance however.

Dan Frazier

Will the swim lanes be shared as before, with two or three people in a lane? Will every other lane be closed to allow for social distancing? Will there be any efforts to improve ventilation in the pool area, such as opening doors, using fans, etc? Will people still be allowed to hang out at the edge of the pool in the water, just chatting while taking up swim lanes? Seems like it would not be that hard to set up some temporary showers outside of the Chavez Center so that people could at least rinse off. The Bicentennial pool should be opened as well. It is outdoors ant that is relatively safe.

Stefanie Beninato

Why not open the Bicentennial pool (Alto St pool) which is outside with the same restriction on locker room use. And could the reporter or the city be more explicit about what will be available and how it will follow COVID requirements.

Stefanie Beninato

Clarification--what will be available in the fitness centers.

Mike Peterson

Will there be fitness classes, too?

Michael Ortiz

There is no Governors order for the ice rink to remain closed. The Rio Rancho ice rink is currently open with COVID safe practices. Someone is not telling the whole story.

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