Cost overruns have left the city-owned StarCenter ice rink $3.6 million over budget and construction delays have pushed back the opening date a year, leaving one resident to say “they’re nickel and diming the taxpayers to death.”
And city officials now project a $1.8 million return on investment for the high-end ice rink over 30 years, which is 66 percent lower than when the City Council approved the deal a year ago.
Plans had called for the 80,000-square-foot center, which will be operated by the NHL’s Dallas Stars as part of a public-private partnership, to open in September. It should still be that month, but in 2018.
The majority of the cost overruns, $3.2 million, came from the Stars wanting to install a more environmentally friendly chiller system that maintains the ice rinks while providing hot water for showers, melting the ice and heating the floors, city officials said.
“They have exercised their authority to select the ice elements for the project and require the city to provide a new consolidated ice plant system,” said Shelly Lanners, deputy city manager.
Reached this week, an official with the Stars declined to answer questions about the need for an upgraded chiller system.
“Any cost overrun questions regarding the StarCenter in Mansfield should be directed to the city of Mansfield as the construction project, budget and procurement has been managed by the city with their chosen architect and construction firm,” Jason Farris, chief operating officer for the Stars, said in an email.
The remaining $400,000 in overruns came from the addition of a 3,000-square-foot community meeting room that was already well under construction when the council approved funding for it last month.
Mansfield city officials contend that they little choice but to approve all the changes as construction on the dual-ice rink facility is more than halfway completed.
Mansfield’s will be the eighth StarCenter in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, including one that has been operating in Euless since 2000.
Opponents of the project have been critical of the StarCenter deal from the start and the latest development strengthens their resolve. They are questioning why the city has to shoulder the entire cost increase.
“They’re nickel and diming the taxpayers to death and we haven’t even gotten it built yet,” said Mansfield resident Tamera Bounds. “ ... They should look at renegotiating the lease.”
She said the Stars should be required to pay a higher rent, about $121,000 more per year, to cover the city’s extra expenses.
Under the current agreement, the Stars will pay $20.5 million in rent over the 30-year lease.
The council approved the changes to the agreement at a meeting in late July. The lone no votes came from Councilman Terry Moore, who wasn’t on the council when the original deal was approved in August 2016.
Details of amended contract
The amended agreement allows the Dallas Stars to move in July 1, 2018, so they will have two months to train employees before opening. The Stars will occupy the facility rent free for July and August and will start paying rent Sept. 1.
If the facility isn’t ready for the Stars to move in on July 1, they will get a 50 percent discount on rent until June 2019. If the delays continue through September, when the youth hockey season starts, the discount increases to 70 percent.
Mayor David Cook acknowledged that the city would get less of a return, but said the StarCenter was never supposed to be an income generator. Much like when you’re buying electronics, the technology can evolve fast, Cook said.
“We had a choice of making this a state-of-the-art facility where it would last because this is a 30-year lease,” Cook told the Star-Telegram. “That was really the decision you had to make.”
Cook said he’s optimistic that changes requested by the council, such as allowing members of the community to skate for free before the facility officially opens, could be added to the amended agreement. Cook also wants to ensure that the Stars are responsible for paying utilities in those months.
‘I don’t like this change at all’
Councilman Larry Broseh vocalized his regrets about the project.
“I don’t like this change at all. But we’re as far along as that center is, I don’t feel like we have the option to just shut down what we’re doing," Broseh said. "We have put our foot forward. We must make it happen even with the extenuating circumstances the only logical thing to do is to move forward with the plans we have approved thus far."
The StarCenter will be part of the 80-acre Shops at Broad project at the northeast corner of East Broad Street and U.S. 287.
Workers are just starting to move dirt around for the retail, restaurants and apartments at the Shops at Broad, Lanners said. The first phase could open in the fall of 2018.
“Everything happens for a reason. I think the best thing that comes out of this is that all of these openings should be lining up all at the same time,” Cook said. “That will be an exciting time for the city of Mansfield.”
The inclusion of 330 apartments drove more opposition to the Shops at Broad project over concerns of increased traffic, overcrowded schools and lower property values.