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Bowie ice arena project was first major project canceled for builder

David Costello has been fulfilling government contracts to build new buildings for nearly three decades, but what happened in Bowie last week was a first for him.

For months his company had worked on building a new two-sheet ice arena for the City of Bowie. But last Tuesday a newly-elected City Council canceled the construction of a new ice arena, with the Mayor saying he felt their predecessors made a mistake in approving the two-sheet facility, as well as the $24.2 million in general obligation bonds sold to pay for it. The council asked that the site be reused to build an indoor court facility for basketball and volleyball players, and that the old city ice arena be renovated.

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“This is a first for us,” Costello said. “We have never not finished a project.”

He said he feels disappointed for the people who were looking forward to the new arena. He said because the project was started when the economy was good but canceled when it was bad, some subcontractors with specialties like plumbing could have trouble finding replacement work. He has been able to direct his employees to other sites.

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In a letter to constituents last week Tim Adams wrote that some of the $6.5 million that has been spent on the project so far, or will be spent, is for infrastructure such as sewer, water, and gas, which can be repurposed.

Adams said one option the council is considering is a request for proposals to renovate the current arena. He said Black Bear Sports Group, which operates 15 arenas on the East Coast, including Piney Orchard in Anne Arundel, contacted the council to suggest extensive renovations as an alternative to a new facility.

“This loan more than tripled the City’s bonded debt from $8 million in FY 2020 to more than $31 million in FY 2021. Given that the IcePlex Project would only have served a small subset of Bowie’s overall population and would not have provided an essential service to the City’s seniors or majority of youth and adults, I felt that the high cost of the project was unjustified,” Adams wrote.

Former Mayor Fred Robinson said there were many more who commented in favor of the project than against it Monday night and Tuesday morning, and added that the council also rejected the testimony heard at public meetings before their time in office.

He said the funding was in place and demand was there. Robinson said the members appeared to have their minds made up before the six hours of public testimony heard during the meeting.

“It’s their prerogative,” he said. “I think some of the people will look back and regret their vote.”

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