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Arlington Board Approves Plan for Ice Rink at Ballston Mall

By Leef Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2004; Page B01

The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to approve a long-awaited plan to develop a $42.8 million training facility for the Washington Capitals hockey team atop the parking garage of the Ballston Common Mall.

The proposal, which was first brought before the board in 2001 at an estimated cost of $18 million, authorizes two National Hockey League-size ice sheets, corporate office space, locker rooms, weight-training facilities and storage for the Capitals, as well as 192 public parking spaces to be built above the existing parking garage.

A $42.8 million training facility for the Capitals receives approval from the Arlington County Board. Pictured above is a rendering of the ice skating facility atop the parking garage of the Ballston Common Mall. (Architecture Inc.)

_____From The Post_____
Arlington's 'Green' Revolution (The Washington Post, Oct 10, 2002)
For Arlington, Some Ice and Flash (The Washington Post, Feb 7, 2002)
Skating Complex Scores Victory (The Washington Post, Feb 10, 2002)
Capitals, Arlington Close to Deal on Rink (The Washington Post, Oct 20, 2001)
Metro, Shop and Skate? Capitals Consider Ballston Mall Site for Practice Rink (The Washington Post, Apr 18, 2000)
_____Capitals Basics_____
Capitals Section

The deal was in limbo for several years, officials said, as financing was arranged and the relationship between Arlington and the Capitals was established.

Yesterday, hockey officials said the rinks would be the first full-size indoor ice skating facilities inside the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia, providing a boon to the area's ice-starved fans, who could gain access to thousands of skating hours at the new facility. It is also a coup for the Capitals, who want to leave their current facility near Baltimore and create a bigger presence for themselves closer to Washington -- when the player lockout is resolved.

"The needs of the team and organization have changed, especially now that we play our games at MCI," said Capitals Operations Director George Parr. "This is our chance to become more integrated in the community."

Arlington officials yesterday seemed most pleased with the opportunity to attract more patrons to Ballston Common Mall, increase annual sales and generate additional revenue, such as sales and meals taxes.

"Ballston Common Mall has not been as exciting and dynamic as we had hoped, and this rink will certainly bring a huge shot of life," said Arlington County Board Chairman Barbara A. Favola (D). "It's a huge draw with a big regional following. . . . It's good, clean family entertainment."

Under the plan, the county will pay up to $6 million toward the cost of constructing an eighth level atop the seven-story Ballston parking garage, as well as the added parking spaces.

The garage is owned and operated by the county but sits on land owned by the May Co., owner of Hecht's. Most of the project will be funded with bonds. Officials say the county will repay the debt service with money from fixed annual rents of about $2.4 million from the Washington Capitals Hockey Club.

In exchange, the Ballston Skating Facility -- the Capitals hold future naming rights with county approval -- will provide an ice rink for use by the general public, including school teams and local hockey leagues.

The two rinks can together accommodate about 8,100 skating hours a year. Arlington County will receive 500 hours of ice time that it can lease under the auspices of the county's Parks and Recreation Department.

The facility will rent the remaining hours, including 400 to the Capitals for practice time.

Wayne Kubicki, a Republican member of the county's Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, yesterday criticized the plan, characterizing it as bad fiscal management, particularly because bond financing rates for the project will vary.

"We're putting way too much money into a privately owned facility being financed with variable rate bonds," Kubicki said. "We may have to add $450,000 to this every year."

Barbara Donnellan, Arlington's director of management and finance, disagreed, calling the project an economic "win-win."

"When you add up the excess parking revenue [the county will collect] and real estate taxes, it will cover any additional debt service that might be needed on the project," Donnellan said. "The important message here is that we're getting two NHL-size ice rinks inside the Beltway. It's an economic development boon for Ballston Mall. . . . It's a benefit to our people who live here."

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