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Squirrel causes $300,000 damage at McMillen Park

– An errant squirrel caused about $300,000 worth of damage to the new McMillen Community Center set to open June 7.

Parks Department officials told parks board members Thursday that on April 1, a squirrel got into the electrical system at the freshly renovated complex in McMillen Park, causing a massive power surge that fried the three new HVAC systems and damaged some parts of the boiler system.

The squirrel did not survive.

Parks Director Al Moll said the damage will be covered by insurance, minus the department’s $50,000 deductible.

The department’s Steve McDaniel said the company that built the HVAC systems is rushing to replace it so the center can open on time.

The McMillen Ice Arena closed in 2009. A $1.9 million project is transforming it into a community center hosting basketball, an indoor track and other activities for young and old alike. The huge spaces that once held sheets of ice will be home to multipurpose rooms that can house basketball courts and artificial turf for indoor soccer.

The entire project is estimated to cost about $4.5 million.

Also Thursday, the board unanimously approved an alcohol policy for the center, which will add it to the list of other parks facilities where alcohol is allowed under narrow circumstances. Alcohol will be allowed only during private functions not open the public that are catered by a caterer with an off-premise liquor license. Drinks must be served by a licensed bartender, and the renter must pay for uniformed security.

The policy is still subject to approval by the City Council.

Officials also reminded the public that tickets for the Foellinger Outdoor summer concert series go on sale at 8 a.m. today at, by calling 427-6000, or by visiting the Parks Department office at 705 E. State Blvd. during business hours.