Fort Dupont is Washington DC’s only public indoor ice arena. The rink hosts the Fort Dupont Cannons – the country’s oldest minority hockey program – and USA Hockey Hall of Fame coach Neal Henderson. The venue entertains countless hockey games and free skates for residents every year.
Now, several years after Fort Dupont met important fundraising benchmarks, construction of a new two-rink facility to replace the current aging facility is seriously in doubt.
Fort Dupont explained the situation in an open letter on its website with the headline No New Rink: Surprising and devastating news from the District of Columbia in regards to FDIA’s planned rink expansion.
The Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena’s Board of Directors claim the District has breached the terms of a 2019 memorandum of understanding.
“The parties agreed to work together to lower the current costs associated with the construction of the two-rink facility,” the Friends of FDIA wrote. “Those were the two key terms of the agreement — and, equally important, mutual goals: lower the costs for a two-rink facility and include Fort Dupont as a partner.”
Now, plans for a two-rink facility are just one and the District’s proposed construction plan is for double its original cost. Fort Dupont says it was not consulted by the District despite its “direct experience in building, owning and operating over 28 rinks” and barely knows any details about how it got to its number.
“The proposed $37,500,000 price tag, about $700 per square foot, is comparable to the cost of a luxury New York City skyscraper!” Friends of FDIA explained. “It’s well established that a two-rink recreational ice arena can be constructed for about $15,000,000 (~$150 per square foot) in 12 to 18 months. The initial approved budget for Fort Dupont’s new rinks was $15,000,000. Numerous independent appraisals and cost estimates will support these figures.”
They added that “we know of no recreational ice rink in the country that has a cost per square foot that approaches this level.” Instead of a 12-18 month timeline, construction would take 27 months at the least.
Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena has asked the District to suspend its plans to demolish the rink next month.
“We have no confidence that the city will actually replace the rink, and we can’t risk that for the children we serve,” Friends of FDIA said. “We will continue to operate the rink as we have with a commitment to the Kids On Ice® programs and the children whose lives have been transformed in the safe and uplifting haven we provide in the District’s most underserved Wards.”
The new developments came as Fort Dupont was planning to have a celebration on February 27 for the teardown and construction of the new rinks.
The Fort Dupont project is personal for Ted Leonsis. The Capitals’ majority owner started a GoFundMe to get the project to the finish line in 2019. The Leonsis family, Monumental Sports, and the NHL all contributed $100k to the project.
Help us help @FriendsofFDIA: https://t.co/X3EMQp9sRq pic.twitter.com/vilZx3ZH1K
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 3, 2019
Leonsis and Alex Ovechkin brought the Stanley Cup to Fort Dupont a week after the team won its first championship.
The Capitals are hosting Black History Night on February 28 and will wear Fort Dupont patches on their warmup jerseys.
Here is Fort Dupont’s full letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser:
February 23, 2022
Dear Mayor Bowser,
In 2019, the District and the Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena (“Fort Dupont”), the non-profit that has operated the Fort Dupont Ice Arena for 26 years, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) confirming the final terms under which the city would construct a new, 2-rink arena. The Council subsequently reviewed and amended the MOU in passing the District’s FY 2020 budget.
The parties agreed to work together to lower the current costs associated with the construction of the 2-rink facility. Those were the two key terms of the agreement — and, equally important, mutual goals: lower the costs for a 2-rink facility and include Fort Dupont as a partner.
Fort Dupont met its initial obligation under the agreement by raising over $1,300,000 by March, 2020 to trigger the October 2020 “shovel in the ground” target date set by the District. That milestone is still unscheduled and, regrettably, the clear and documented record shows the District has breached the agreement.
Fort Dupont has not been afforded a substantive role in the process. For example, even after the intervention of Chairman Mendelson, the city has never provided Fort Dupont with a complete budget to review for comments and suggestions. Instead of reducing costs, the District has increased them.
It’s well established that a 2-rink recreational ice arena can be constructed for about $15,000,000 (~$150 per square foot) in 12 to 18 months. The initial approved budget for Fort Dupont’s new rinks was $15,000,000. Numerous independent appraisals and cost estimates will support these figures.
Nevertheless, last week, District officials advised Fort Dupont that the cost estimate for our now single-rink facility has exploded to $37,500,000, with $6,000,000 currently unfunded and an uncertain construction start date or schedule; the city’s previous 12 to18 month construction period estimate is now a “best guess” at 27 months.
To provide context, the cost estimate for this one-sheet facility is approximately $700 per square foot – equivalent to a luxury New York City skyscraper. The Fort Dupont Board has direct experience in building, owning and operating over 28 rinks. We know of no recreational ice rink in the country that has a cost per square foot that approaches this level. We have been given virtually no details about the specifics other than the following: The cost estimate for the “ice plant” (ice-making equipment and piping) is $3.6 million. We have direct experience purchasing and installing such equipment, including in the last year, and have NEVER exceeded $1.5 million for a 2-rink ice plant. Having been denied access to the budget, we cannot endorse the District‘s cost figures based on our knowledge of reasonable costs for comparable projects.
This latest action by the city compels Fort Dupont to notify the District that it has breached the terms of the 2019 MOU. Fort Dupont cannot support or justify this proposed use of taxpayers’ money. The District is planning half the project for double its original cost.
As a result, we will not agree to the city’s current plan to demolish our building next month. We have no confidence that the city will actually replace the rink, and we can’t risk that for the children we serve. We will continue to operate the rink as we have with a commitment to the Kids On Ice® programs and the children whose lives have been transformed in the safe and uplifting haven we provide in the District’s most underserved Wards.
The District’s commitment to this project and the unmatched access to ice sports and the opportunities for personal growth and achievement we offer the District’s children has been spotty at best, as the attached timeline highlights. Fort Dupont, a small non-profit Board run by volunteers, has always been in a weak position, forced to accept whatever the city proposed.
That’s why we were hopeful that the clear language and obvious intent of the 2019 MOU meant we were finally on a path to a new 2-rink facility that would serve thousands of kids well for years to come.
The rink and our programs have survived since 1996 because of the commitment and dedication of the Fort Dupont team and the communities, parents and children we serve. The road forward has been made more difficult by the District’s failure to fulfill the terms of the MOU, but we are committed to finding a path forward and providing the opportunities our kids cherish.
We continue to be mystified that the city doesn’t believe in this project. Fort Dupont has a 26-year successful track record. Our Kids on Ice® programs have transformed the lives of over 20,000 children, primarily from Wards 7 & 8. We put kids from all wards on the ice together, where the common denominator is “everybody falls down, get up and keep going.” Sounds like an important life lesson.
District officials and Fort Dupont’s dedicated volunteers and staff should be working together to achieve the updated ice facility the kids deserve and need.
Friends of Fort Dupont Board of Directors
Headline photo: RMNB
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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