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Town board considers shorter hours at Austin Park ice rink

— The town-run ice rink at Austin Park Pavilion will begin the 2012 ice season with a loss of more than $11,000 in revenue due to a large reduction in committed rink use hours by community groups. This reality prompted the Skaneateles Town Board at its Sept. 6 meeting to consider the likelihood of reduced general rink hours to save money on staffing costs.

The issue came up as the board considered a YMCA request for a reduced contractual ice rink use rate.

The current contractual ice rate is $95 per hour for anyone other than the community figure skating and hockey programs and the Skaneateles School district, which pay $80 per hour. The YMCA requested it be allowed to pay the $80 rate.

The YMCA’s request led to a board discussion of general rink costs and potential hours of operation for the upcoming season. Town Supervisor Terri Roney told the board that committed ice rink hours by the figure skating and hockey programs are down significantly, from 940 hours last year to 763 hours this year. That reduction translates into a revenue loss of more than $11,000, Roney said.

The issue then for the board was whether to keep the rink open for “empty hours” when the ice is not reserved on the chance that someone may want to come use it. Specifically, the YMCA requested rink use beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday evenings, but previously committed community group ice use is over by 3 p.m., leaving a three-hour window of empty ice.

“I think it’s really wasteful” to staff for empty time, Roney said. Councilor Steve McGlynn agreed, citing both the reduced demand and the results of a study he commissioned in the spring that showed the town lost slightly more than $1,000 in expenses versus revenues on the ice rink management last year.

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