Just call Bubble the Albatross

Don Rogers
July 15, 2004

Vail's experiment with the tent-covered ice rink at the golf course has gone on two years too long and needs to end now.

The Bubble was supposed to be temporary, a two-year arrangement back went it first went up in winter 2001 to pick up the spill-over from a tapped-out Dobson Ice Arena, which underwent significant renovation during part of that time.

Perhaps the name now should be changed officially to The Albatross. As the Vail Recreation District discovered the first winter of operation, the set-up and take-down costs alone are nothing short of spectacular. Imagine, six figures just to put the thing up and then take in down in a few months. Last winter, the utility costs alone crested $25,000. And the recreation district lost $2 for every $1 it spent keeping the Bubble open. Use of the facility never touched what authorities had in good faith thought .

Now there's an ice rink in Eagle. Perhaps, in time, there will be one in Edwards, too. All that wishing about dragging kids upvalley to Vail for ice time, is it really worth running up these losses? Just storing the Bubble costs $10,000. Surely, Vail can find a more productive way to spend that money.

There's another factor at work here, and it's rather like gravity. About 12 percent of the households in Vail have children being raised. The percentage slides up the farther downvalley you go to about 80 percent in Eagle and Gypsum. For the kids programs, all the downvalley communities need to do is build ice rinks. Whether Vail builds a second permanent rink or continues with the misguided, financially hemohraging seasonal Bubble, attracting those kids and their families is completely out of Vail's control.

Vail might as well just burn a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year as they keep putting up, taking down, operating at an incredible loss with no great crowds, and then storing the dang thing for, remember, $10,000. What exactly are we missing here? This is madness.

The tent needs to be sold - the sooner the better before it is more damaged - and the town needs to move on. This is obvious to everyone but apparently a few hockey club parents and the Town Council itself.

The occasional inconveniences of special events at the Dobson do not justify this large of a subsidy to hockey clubs, not when the bill rises to nearly a quarter of a million dollars of pure expense. Every year.

The valley now has that second sheet of ice. It's in Eagle, closer to where the families live.

Keeping the Bubble at this point - at high expense and low demand - is skating past the edge of folly. It's just dead weight. Around Vail's neck.