The first time we wrote about Southern Skates on E. Ledbetter Road was a month after Europe agreed go with the euro, a month before Saving Private Ryan opened and six months before the House impeached Bill Clinton. In other words, a million years ago. Back then, former Black Panther Fahim Minkah was wrangling with the city about opening an entertainment center in South Dallas, where such facilities were and remain scarce; but five years later, Minkah defaulted on a $400,000 Housing and Urban Development- and city-backed loan, and the skating rink fell back into the city's hands, where it's remained ever since -- under the auspices of the Parks and Recreation Department, which runs it as a part-time operation.
For more than a year, the city's been trying to sell it off but can find no takers, which is why, yet again, the city council's Economic Development Committee finds Southern Skates on its to-do list. But what to do? Operating the joint has cost the city close to $1,000,000 in the past five fiscal years, and city officials would love to offlload the property. Last month, the owner of Ohio-based United Skates of America said he was interested -- but only if the city kicked in an operating subsidy worth $625,000 over the first five years of operations. Ideal Family Church would like to run it -- but the pastor there "has no experience operating a facility such as this," according to committee briefing documents.
So, the city now has three options: Keep it and keep losing money (and keep HUD breathing down its neck), lease it to an outside operator or just sell the damned property without an advertised minimum bid (because to do, according to HUD, "depresses bidding"). It'll likely go with Options 2 or 3: The city guesstimates that keeping Southern Skates will cost it another half a mil over the next three years.
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