Opening date for Silver Spring ice rink up in the air after contractor withdraws bid
Both contractors withdrew bids to operate rink, county official says
Leave those ice skates in the closet the opening date of the Silver Spring ice rink at Veteran's Plaza is more up in the air than ever.
A few weeks ago, county officials said there would be a delay on the opening date due to ongoing negotiations with potential contractors who would operate the rink. Now, both contractors have withdrawn their applications, saying they didn't know if they would be able to profitably operate the rink, according to David Dise, the director of the Department of General Services.
The two companies up for the job were Rink Management Services, based in Mechanicsville, Va., and Tristate Ice Management, based in Annapolis. Rink Management was set to be named as the operator of the rink, but they withdrew last week, Dise said.
"Both parties withdrew from negotiations," he said. "Tristate withdrew during negotiations, and Rink Management withdrew at the end of negotiations, leaving the county with no contractor in a field where only two companies exist to provide a service."
The two companies are the only public ice rink operators in the region, he said.
Dise said the original request for bids put too many restrictions on the ability to negotiate certain things, like utility fees, rental fees and hours of operation. With all the restrictions, both contractors said they wouldn't be able to make a profit, Dise said.
The county is loosening up its restrictions, he said. Both companies will receive an e-mail outlining what the county can and cannot negotiate on. For example, Dise said the previous request for bids required the contractor to pay a fixed fee to the county each month for operating the rink. The county hadn't considered that fee negotiable, but now, there's some wiggle room, Dise said.
Each company will have the opportunity to send in their "best and final offer," Dise said.
Tom Hillgrove, president of Rink Management, said Monday there were a number of issues with the initial contract, including the energy costs, and they couldn't reach an agreement. According to Dise, the county's electricity rate was more than Rink Management had included in their calculations.
Hillgrove said Rink Management still hopes to be considered for the bid.
"The contract is still in negotiations and a decision will be made early next week," Hillgrove said.
This is the latest in a string of delays to the ice rink opening.
Rink Management was initially awarded the contract, but the notice of award was withdrawn by Montgomery County due to a procedural error Nov. 10. Then, negotiations took longer than expected, and officials said the rink's opening date would likely be moved from Nov. 20 to early December. Dise said he couldn't estimate when the rink might finally open, because the county has to determine if the rink could be profitable if opened late.
The rink cost $575,000 to build, which was included in the overall construction price of the Civic Building project, Dise said. Operating costs are expected to run about $5,000 a month, he said.