Adams claims that a 2013 feasibility study concluded that industry experts advised the city that local demand for ice facilities warranted spending no more than $10.66 million to construct a new ice arena. That’s not what the feasibility study concluded.
The study concluded that there was sufficient demand for two sheets of ice in the city, and the estimated cost for a facility seven years ago was $10.66 million. The study did not say, as Adams claims, that the city should spend no more than $10.66 million. The estimate was for high-level planning purposes at a time when the city was evaluating multiple indoor sports options.
The consultants who provided the estimate did not provide a cost range, and they did not indicate a list of assumptions that went into the estimate. They did not say whether or not the estimate included costs for land acquisition, land improvements, and infrastructure improvements.
For comparison purposes, the same 2013 study estimated the cost of a 61,400 square-foot facility featuring five hardwood basketball courts at $7.58 million. A 2018 feasibility study conducted by the city concluded that a much smaller two court facility would cost between $7.3 million and $12.9 million depending on the type of structure constructed. The study evaluated air domes, tension structures, metal buildings, and brick and mortar buildings.
The conclusions of the 2013 feasibility study were presented to the Bowie City Council during a June 3, 2013 council meeting. Video of that meeting is available on the city’s web site.
In the same letter where Adams erroneously criticizes the previous council for not taking the advice of industry experts, Adams makes a case for cheaply renovating the current Bowie Ice Arena by citing advice from a different industry expert - Black Bear Sports Group (BBSG). According to Adams, BBSG criticized the Bowie IcePlex project, and the privately held company offered suggestions for how the existing Bowie Ice Arena at Allen Pond Park could be transformed into a world-class facility for less than $3 million.
The claim that the existing ice arena could be converted into a world-class facility for $3 million is ludicrous, and it gives reason to question Adams’ analysis. The irony is that city residents have never sought world-class sports facilities. Adams made an unfortunate choice of words.
The bigger issue is that Adams ignored previous studies of the state of the Allen Pond ice arena in favor of unvetted information contained in a letter from an industry expert who has a financial incentive to limit ice capacity in Bowie.
BBSG owns and operates multiple ice rinks, including the nearby two-sheet Piney Orchard facility in Odenton. The two-sheet Bowie IcePlex could have drawn paying customers away from the Piney Orchard facility in favor of new facilities and a more convenient location.
It’s also important to note that as a private owner and operator of ice arenas, BBSG’s construction requirements may be very different than those needed for a municipal complex. Private companies are likely to build rinks with an eye towards short term profits, and the city has an interest in creating a sustainable facility that will last for 50 or more years.
BBSG’s analysis of the current Allen Pond ice arena may be correct. We don’t know. But because there is a conflict of interest and because the analysis hasn’t been vetted, the information can’t be considered reliable at this time.
Although Adams can criticize the high cost of the Bowie IcePlex, the project did follow proper municipal governance, including independent third-party consultations, many open public hearings, a competitive bidding process for the construction contract, and transparency including a video library of related council meetings. The same cannot be said about the BBSG letter, which, according to Adams, helped guide his decision to cancel the IcePlex project.
Every councilmember, including Adams, who voted against the IcePlex project stated this week that they support the Bowie ice community. It’s clear, however, that none of those councilmembers know what that support will cost. That’s something that should have been determined before the IcePlex project was canceled.
Yes, reasonable people can disagree about whether or not the Bowie IcePlex project should have been canceled, but it’s important that those decisions are guided by proper governance and vetted information.