“Charting a New Course for Englewood Arena” – an OpEd by Mayor Frank Huttle on the John T. Wright Ice Arena
I have pasted below an OpEd of mine that was published in the Bergen Record on this past Sunday, June 16, 2013 in case you may have missed it.
Mayor Frank Huttle
Opinion: Charting a new course for Englewood arena
SUNDAY JUNE 16, 2013, 6:40 AM
BY FRANK HUTTLE
Frank Huttle is mayor of Englewood.
THERE COMES a time when a community must decide whether it is ready and willing to move forward into the future or whether it would rather idle in the past. Now is the time for the City of Englewood to embrace our future by determining, once and for all, the fate of the John T. Wright Arena at Mackay Park.
When the Ice Arena opened in 1982, it was seen as an opportunity to bring our community together and give our youth a safe recreational space. Unfortunately, as The Record correctly noted, more out-of-town visitors than Englewood youth have utilized the rink due to a lack of affordable and accessible programming. I made a commitment to change this when I took office as mayor.
To that end, a plan was presented to the community that would have authorized a non-profit organization to operate the Ice Arena through an innovative public-private philanthropic partnership. The city would have paid for the capital improvements necessary to reopen the arena after Superstorm Sandy in exchange for increased ice time for Englewood youth and year-round recreation programs coordinated with the city’s Department of Recreation.
Three council members supported funding these improvements to pave the way for a revived arena better able to serve the youth of our city, especially those in our 4th Ward. Two, however, voted to pay primarily for the roof replacement without addressing other concerns required to open the arena, in effect choosing the status quo.
Both approaches failed and so now Englewood must decide whether we close the arena or pay to reopen it in some capacity. This decision is one that affects the entire city, particularly the 4th Ward in which the arena is located. It is therefore only right that all residents have a voice in the decision-making process.
This process began with several public forums to engage the community, including the mayor’s Town Hall Meeting at Community Baptist Church. I recently formed the advisory task force comprised of residents from across the city to make recommendations to the council and myself. While some, such as The Record, view the discussions as contentious, I see our city coming together to create a new course for the arena.
Englewood is not divided. We are a vibrant community of well-informed and engaged residents. Democracy is at its best when we all have a stake and we all take a stand on our collective future. I am proud of Englewood’s long tradition of strong public involvement and I am pleased that residents are expressing their views on the arena.
The John T. Wright Arena at Mackay Park is not a symbol of past divisions, but a reminder of a promise Englewood made three decades ago to the youth and families of our community. It is time to take action without rehashing old fights. I look forward to hearing new, creative and inclusive solutions in the weeks and months ahead from the task force and city residents. Our children deserve nothing less.