A D.C. Council vote on redirecting funds for rebuilding the Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast to D.C. Public Schools was delayed for two weeks.
The council agreed to hold a special session on the matter. In the meantime, officials with Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration will meet with supporters of the ice rink to reach a compromise that would ensure funding for the improvements in a future budget.
Plans have been underway to rebuild the aging building and to double its capacity in order to keep up with the demand from both youth groups and hockey leagues that use the facility.
The D.C. government dedicated more than $20 million to the project, but last week, Bowser sent a letter to the D.C. Council saying she was going to take the money from the ice arena renovations and other projects and redirect them toward emergency repairs at several public schools across the city.
“What is needed are some critical repairs to schools,” she said. “They include HVAC, they include roofs, they include a lot of things that really need to be done.”
Bowser’s decision outraged supporters of the arena.
“Thousands of kids that use this facility and take advantage of the programs will not be able to,” said Tomeka Gueory of Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena.
Her daughter learned to skate at Fort Dupont years ago and is a coach there.
“We shouldn’t be pitted against D.C. Public Schools, which is, unfortunately, how the mayor’s office has been spinning this,” Gueory said.
The Washington Capitals have been longtime supporters of the arena. Caps owner Ted Leonsis called Fort Dupont a treasure and urged Bowser to restore funding.
Bowser had already pledged to try to find funds for the Fort Dupont renovations in next year’s budget.
The Fort Dupont Ice Arena Board released the following statement Tuesday:
“On behalf of the kids of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, many thanks to Mayor Bowser, Chairman Mendelson, and Councilmember Gray for working with our team and agreeing on a path to ensure the new 2-rink arena will be built.
“The next step is to meet and agree on the details of how to get there. This will include reviewing the design, costs, FDIA’s Capital Campaign, timing for funding, and a construction schedule.
“At the end of this planning effort, the rink should be on a reliable schedule. In addition to the public officials, very special thanks go out to the thousands of FDIA supporters who engaged on behalf of our kids. Without that outpouring of support, we wouldn’t be where we are today. A special thanks to Ted Leonsis, the CAPS and the NHL for launching the GoFundMe effort that will be a critical part of our ongoing effort to raise the $5 million contribution to the new rink.”