Fort Dupont Ice Arena must raise $3 million in new deal with DC

The nonprofit board behind D.C.'s only indoor ice skating rink agreed to raise $3 million to ensure the neighborhood staple's future.

WASHINGTON — The nonprofit board that runs the Fort Dupont Ice Arena has agreed to raise $3 million to ensure its future, following a negotiation with the city over a budget change.

More than 3,000 kids use the Fort Dupont Ice Arena for skating practice, to volunteer and go to summer camp as D.C.’s only indoor ice rink.

“There are a lot of kids who actually use the rink as a safe space because there is an absence of activity, particularly for girls in middle school,” board member Patrice Willoughby told WTOP.

The rink, turned pseudo-community center, offers speed skating, hockey and synchronized skating programs to kids, among others, and does not turn anyone away if they can’t afford enrollment. So when its planned expansion and facility upgrade was jeopardized by shifting of city funds, city leaders, community members and even the owner of the Washington Capitals have stepped up. 

“We’ve committed to raise $3 million by February 2020, at which point, the city will be triggered to put money into the budget to build the new two-rink facility,” Willoughby said.

The deal between the Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena and the city comes after two weeks of negotiations and was finalized Tuesday, said Willoughby.

Hours earlier, D.C. Council member Vincent Gray, D-Ward 7, told his colleagues during a legislative session that the nonprofit board would have a “heavy lift” to raise $5 million, but that number changed. In the council hearing, Gray removed his notice of disapproval, a formal notice of dissent to the mayor’s decision to reroute millions slated for the rink’s expansion to fund needed repairs in schools.

“At issue … is $21 million of a $55 million reprogramming, which is part of a $74 million effort at several DCPS school and recreation facilities, some of which are in Ward 7, which will perform critical maintenance and repairs that, of course, I support,” Gray said.

“Unfortunately, through the reprogramming, the executive has asked to shift some costs of this maintenance effort to the Fort Dupont — a true Ward 7 and District gem that also serves so many of our children in the city,” Gray said.

Plans have been in the works to expand the arena since 2014, Willoughby said. And the board was in the process of pushing into its capital campaign, looking for entities who could contribute big dollars before starting its community effort, when the Capitals made a big announcement.

The rink’s online fundraising effort was helped in part by a donation made by Caps owner Ted Leonsis and the NHL, and the buzz it generated when the team put it on the big screen at a home game.

The recent attention Fort Dupont’s rink has gotten from not only the Caps’ announcement but from the back-and-forth with the city has created greater interest, and only underscores the need for a larger, safer facility for the District’s kids, Willoughby said.

“This is really an uphill battle. We are a small nonprofit board and to commit to raise $3 million by February 2020 is a huge goal,” she said.

WTOP's Megan Cloherty reports on efforts to ensure the neighborhood staple's future

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