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Five design firms vie for Watertown arena project

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Five consulting firms will vie for the design work on the planned $3.6 million upgrade of the Watertown Municipal Arena.

The five upstate New York firms submitted proposals by last week’s deadline on how they would handle designing the improvements at the nearly 40-year-old facility at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. A team of city staff members will look at the proposals in the next week or so and possibly recommend a firm to the City Council next month, City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said.

“I haven’t even opened up the envelopes, but we’re trying to get this rolling as fast as we can,” he said.

The firms with expertise in sports venues are Stantec, Rochester; Foit-Albert Associates, Buffalo; C&S Companies, Syracuse; Bell & Spina PC, Syracuse, and MRB Group, Rochester. Two other firms did not respond to the city’s request for proposals.

In February, council members informally agreed to go forward with the project when they were briefed during a work session.

The design work would be completed this year, with the project possibly starting next year, Mr. Hauk said.

For years, city officials have talked about completing major improvements at the facility, citing increased use and a need for more space.

The project could include such amenities as a new lobby, ticket booth, press box and offices and bigger and better locker rooms and restrooms. The owner of the Thousand Islands Privateers has told the city the minor league hockey team needs a new locker room.

The project also might feature a warming room where spectators can view the action on the ice, improved administrative offices and a new party room. Work would include repairs to the roof and its trusses. For several years, the roof has been plagued with leaks during heavy rainstorms.

The concrete floor and fire suppression system would be replaced. A back parking lot might be expanded. All of the work would be funded through a 15-year serial bond, with projected debt service of $56,250.

The consultant will come back in the fall with the cost estimates for each of the amenities and the city then will decide on a final list of which ones should be completed, Mr. Hauk said.

Two years ago, the city upgraded the concession stand and took over its operations from a youth hockey organization. As separate projects, the city plans to replace the 35-year-old bleachers at a projected cost of $450,000 and construct an arena storage building at the fairgrounds for about $265,000, both of which are slated to be done this year.

If the city proceeds with the project, it would come at a time when the Parks and Recreation Department has taken on a new management team and put emphasis on improving and expanding programs.

The venue was built as an open-air hockey arena in 1975 and was enclosed two years later. Over the years, the city has discussed adding a second sheet of ice to accommodate increased use from youth hockey and other organizations. In February, council members nixed that idea, questioning its $4 million cost.

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