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City Council: Ice arena is cool

“With so much at risk, and so much time involved, I was as tense and stressed as a person could be,” said Greg Meakin, who sought City Council approval Wednesday, June 26 for an ice rink to be built in East Bremerton.

“Hearing the motion pass with nine ‘Yes’ votes was like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders,” he said

Wednesday’s affirmative vote capped a series of speeches by council members who hailed it as a potential social gathering spot, a tourist destination and redevelopment spark.

The ice rink will provide youth and adult skating opportunities, a skate rental shop, senior programs, a fitness center, arcade and concessions.

Meakin, who leads the ice rink project team, faced a series of brambles since starting the project nearly two years ago.

Initially slated to be built at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, county officials and residents there shot the idea down after Meakin’s team spent many months and thousands of dollars on site and building designs.

According to Bremerton City Attorney Roger Lubovich, the $177,000 Bremerton is giving Meakin to relocatate is only half of what it actually cost him to redesign the rink to fit the 2.7- acre-plot in East Bremerton, adjacent to the YMCA.

Most of the money the city is handing over will be earned back before the ice rink is open for operation, through a building and sales tax, said Jim Spencer, director of Bremerton Parks and Rec.

Meakin said he was excited after the decision because he realized his ice arena — set to break ground within months — is the first of a series of major redevelopment projects to be completed in the next six years in Bremerton.

Since the ice arena project was officially announced in January 2001, thousands of supportive e-mails, calls and letters have streamed in from all over Kitsap County, the United States, Canada and even Germany to support the project, according to Denise Moreno, a member or Meakin’s staff.

“It’s been a year-and-a-half since the project was announced,” said Meakin, “and although the vote is a tremendous relief and victory, my team realizes the work has just begun.”

The next step is receiving approval from the National Park Service, who must confirm the building is meeting environmental standards. Then Meakin’s team must obtain building permits. Both are expected to be complete within months.

The project is funded by $4 million from Chuck and Joanne Haselwood, who own the Haselwood Auto Group.

“They clearly view this as a historic opportunity for the city,” said Michael Gould, speaking on behalf of the Haselwoods on Wednesday night.

“What they are seeing is a city on the verge of greatness again,” Gould said.

“A city pursuing its own vision of revitalization. A city ready to do business and get things done.”

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