An ice rink will be located in the Centennial Commons in downtown Royal Oak from Nov. 18 to Feb. 19, 2023.

An ice rink will be located in the Centennial Commons in downtown Royal Oak from Nov. 18 to Feb. 19, 2023.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Royal Oak approves plan for ice rink in Centennial Commons

By: Mike Koury | Royal Oak Review | Published October 13, 2022


ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak City Commission approved a proposal to place an ice rink downtown.

At its Sept. 26 meeting, the commission approved 4-3 an ice rink that will be located in the Centennial Commons at 203 S. Troy St. The rink will be open from Nov. 18 through Feb. 19, 2023.

The ice rink proposal comes from Jon Witz, who produces Royal Oak’s annual Arts, Beats & Eats festival. According to city documents, based on his preliminary operating budget, Witz offered to raise $100,000 in sponsorships. He also is proposing to construct, manage, deconstruct the skating rink and remediate the site post-deconstruction.

As part of the agreement with Witz’s company, Jonathan Witz & Associates, key business terms of the deal include Royal Oak will separately provide, at its cost, permanent electrical power to a point designated in Centennial Commons; the city shall obtain the Downtown Development Authority’s $125,000 funding contribution and was to provide it to JWA no later than Oct. 10; Jonathan Witz & Associates will secure a minimum of $100,000 in sponsorships and guarantees that it will contribute any amount necessary to meet a shortfall in sponsorships and the revenue collected by JWA shall be used to offset the costs of the rink rental, staffing, site electric power, construction, deconstruction, support structures, ongoing operations and site restoration.

City documents state that the estimated total cost of the ice rink project is $415,000 and that the city’s maximum financial obligation, after deducting the DDA’s contribution and sponsorship contributions, is $190,000.

“When the revenue and expenditures are all tabulated and verified by the city … we would find out exactly what the city’s financial contribution might be,” City Attorney Aaron Leal said. “Under the agreement, the city faces a maximum financial obligation of $190,000, but any revenues that’s obtained during the operations would basically reduce that number either to a smaller number or it’s possible to also have a positive, which would be profit and revenue being returned to the city.”

The agreement was approved by the commission in a 4-3 vote. Mayor Michael Fournier and Commissioners Kyle DuBuc, Monica Hunt and Brandon Kolo voted yes, while Mayor Pro Tem Melanie Macey and Commissioners Sharlan Douglas and Pat Paruch voted no.

Reflecting on when the idea of the ice rink was first presented, Macey said it seemed like a beautiful idea, but that the costs of the project were going to be an issue.

Though contingencies were placed in the agreement for the DDA and sponsorships, Macey said a contingency wasn’t meant for something like electrical because they had proposed to spend around $35,000 and now it’s more than $100,000.

“We are getting something extra, we’re getting something permanent that we can use for other events, but it still seems to me that we can’t separate that out from the decision we’re making here and weighing that in as a factor in terms of how much this is costing us,” she said.

Macey said she doesn’t feel as optimistic about the ice rink as she once did, and she doesn’t believe residents are in favor of the project.

“This proposal has proven to be very unpopular and many, many people have talked to me about this, and I appreciate hearing from them, and it does impact how I think about this, not only in terms of whether or not the residents want it, but in terms of the financial piece of it,” she said. “Are we going to be able to make our money back if our own citizens don’t think it will be that utilized? So for me, the idea is amazing and I really liked the thought of it, and the image in my head is one that I find very attractive, but how it’s laid out in terms … of the cost to us and in terms of how it’s perceived by the residents of Royal Oak, it seems to me that this is no longer a good deal for us. It’s not something that’s going to bring enough benefit to the city for what it’s going to cost.”

Fournier said there was a lot built into the contract to mitigate risk for the city, but outside of that, he believed that the city had an obligation to not be afraid of a financial risk.

“We also have a duty to provide a quality of life for our residents,” he said.

Fournier said that the DDA “jumped” at the chance to act as a sponsor for this, and the DDA members “have a pulse on what the business community wants and needs.”

“They are a major and significant contributor to Centennial Commons,” he said. “We can’t forget that history, and they’ve jumped on board saying this is a good idea for the community but also for the business community as well.”

The mayor expressed his appreciation for the sentiments his colleagues shared, some of the things they were uncomfortable with about the project.

“I think the JWA was pretty transparent about how they benefit from this, and I think it’s pretty clear how we benefit,” he said. “It’s just that factor of risk, but I think that even if we end up minus 30, minus 40, to me that’s money well spent as an obligation of this body to provide support for not just our downtown businesses, but for our residents and especially for, you know, kids that need something to do in the winter to get out of the house and, you know, experience time with their community and their families.”