WASHINGTON — D.C. may be backing out of a deal to fund a popular Southeast skating rink known for grooming Olympians. Athletes like speed skater Maame Biney got her start at Fort Dupont Ice Arena. But the future of the Arena is at risk. D.C. committed $25 Million if the Friends of Fort Dupont Board raised $5 Million.
Board members say they are on track to raise their share of funding but just learned last week that the city is considering back out of the deal and could “reprogram” the money elsewhere. Families have started a social media campaign to make D.C. keep its promise.
One parent involved in the movement to keep the rink alive is Deborah Loomis from Ward 7. “When you go to a public skating session there are kids from East of the River and West of the River,” she said.
It’s that sense of community that may be its biggest draw. Loomis sends two of her children to speed skating at Fort Dupont.
Her neighbor 11-year-old Charlotte Anderson has been playing hockey there for six years.
"I’ve learned team work, I've learned different ways of communicating with people and strategizing to get a good result,” she said.
Fort Dupont opens its doors to all skaters regardless of need, serving more than 20,000 children in one program alone. But the rink is in such bad shape it's in desperate need of a face lift.
“Water is dripping from the ceiling, there are puddles,” explained Loomis, “I have a friend at work whose daughter skates in Virginia but skates there too and she said, ‘It’s really not that nice in there’ and I say ‘I know but it’s our rink! It’s just sort of hanging on by a thread.”
Board members said the money was to upgrade the current rink and build a second one. Now they’re not sure if the arena future is on the chopping block. Parents said they can't afford to lose it. “Especially in ward 7,” explained Loomis, “I can't think of that many facilities of that caliber that bring people together other than the rink."
No word yet on why the city could be pulling the funding.