BOWIE, Md. — Bowie ice hockey and skating clubs are upset after the city council put a freeze on their plans for a new ice rink.
The council voted on June 3 not to approve a contractor's bid to build a new two-sheet ice rink and instead send the project to a referendum vote in November.
For the skaters and their families, they're worried their clubs, which have been around for decades, could disappear.
“I’ve played for Bowie, this is my fourth year," said Aidan Gunn, a player with the Bowie Hockey Club. "It’s basically like my second home. I love playing hockey. It’s my passion, and it’s just a wonderful group and community.”
Gunn's mom said she grew up coming to the rink, too.
“I learned to skate at this rink," said Kelly Gunn. "I came on Friday nights with my middle school friends for DJ Friday nights, and now my kids are here. I have four kids.”
Built in 1971, the clubs based at Bowie Ice Arena said it's in dire need of repair -- from pipes to compressors to the overall structure.
They were also hoping the project will afford them the opportunity to expand.
However, four council members voted against approving a contractor for a new two-sheet ice rink in a move that surprised the clubs.
“I was thinking wow! How can this be happening?” said eight-year-old Anna Nations, who skates with the ice skating team.
The hockey club president said it came out of nowhere.
“We were just shocked, because we weren’t at the meeting, because we thought it was just going to be an uneventful meeting," said hockey club president Lori Jones. "They were just going to finalize the contract by approving the construction contractor and everything was going to move forward.”
That shock came, in part, because the clubs expected support from more council members based on past meetings.
One who Jones said flipped his support is Councilmember Michael Esteve.
Esteve claims the vote should not have been a surprise, as the council has been debating funding multiple projects for years.
“It’s the biggest headache that we have," said Esteve. "Because there’s never a consistent lasting consensus on what project residents are willing to support, we end up in this untenable situation where we spend years and million of dollars studying projects. We manage to anger every single user group in the process and still have nothing to show for it."
In the June 3 meeting, the council said the city had already spent $3 million in the planning stage.
Despite the bill, other council members said they voted it down because many of those using the rink don't live in Bowie.
One mother who lives out-of-town said that doesn't make sense.
“We live at this rink," said Karen Nations. "We are here multiple days a week for many hours a week, and because we’re here in Bowie, we’re spending our money in Bowie."
Esteve agrees that the rink could likely end up paying for itself, but he still isn't ready to throw his full support behind the project.
Instead, he and three other council members voted to send the rink issue to referendum so voters can decide its fate.
The clubs hope that in the meantime, the council will change its mind.
The next council meeting is set for June 17, and members of the club plan to make their voices heard.