Last month, the Coalition had the great opportunity to build community and network with some wonderful folks in the Methow Valley. Coalition staff was already planning on being in Winthrop to testify in support of $130 million in funding for the WWRP at the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board meeting. So we decided to take the opportunity to connect with partners in the area. The day before the RCFB meeting, we held a community-building event at the Winthrop Rink.
The Coalition thrives on partnership and cooperation with organizations, companies, and outdoor leaders. We relish the opportunity to hold these types of small gatherings and connect one-on-one with our valuable partners outside of the Puget Sound corridor.
The Winthrop event gave us the chance to deepen our relationships with donors and partners in the Methow Valley. With guest speakers from the Winthrop Rink itself, the Methow Conservancy, our Joan Thomas Awardee Maggie Coon, numerous elected officials including Senator Brad Hawkins, and the Coalition’s own Board Member Fred Wert. Guests were impressed to learn the extent of the impact WWRP has had on the Valley—and Senator Hawkins expressed his own support for the program as well, noting that $130 million seemed a reasonable advocacy number.
This intimate gathering also highlighted the incredible economic benefit provided by the WWRP to the Winthrop area itself. In 2012, the Town of Winthrop received their second WWRP Local Parks grant (in the amount of $497,000 with a community match of $498,000) to upgrade the ice rink.
Winthrop used this grant to improve the rink by installing refrigeration to extend the rink’s season of use, allowing hockey games and ice skating to continue well-past what it had in the past. The existing building was renovated and expanded, with the addition of new restrooms, showers, changing rooms, a common sitting/viewing area, and more storage. Winthrop also constructed a small concession space in the building with its own funds. The updated rink opened for the first time with refrigeration in December 2016.
The Winthrop Rink is special because it provides not only opportunities for ice skating and ice hockey games and tournaments in the winter, but also roller skating, roller derby, and pickleball games and tournaments in the summer. It was named one of the “Top Ten Ice Rinks in the West” by Sunset Magazine. It is also one of the few ice rinks in the west that does not operate at a loss, meaning the rink is a sustainable community asset that will continue to provide benefits to users into the future.
Since the updated rink has opened, the Winthrop community has seen massive economic benefit from an extended ice hockey season and the ability to hold tournaments and attract tourists from around the state and beyond. As a community asset with programs for every age, the rink attracts over 10,000 visitors each year.
Individuals who use the rink pay a small fee to use the facility, providing enough revenue to cover operating costs. But a trip to the Winthrop Ice Rink is worth more to consumers then what they pay, with the average visitor receiving $4 worth of consumer surplus, a measure of a consumers benefits, for each visit, totaling over $40,000 for rink users every year. While measuring consumer surplus is different than measuring direct expenditures, it provides insights into the high value that rink users place on their ability to use the facility. And, because the rink is able to operate sustainably, Winthrop residents and visitors can experience the joy of outdoor skating time and time again.
The benefit of the Coalition’s work and the effect of the WWRP can be seen clearly through the lens of the Winthrop Rink: to realize the dreams of communities across the state, as well as strengthen their economies.