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Falmouth council debates merits of 2nd ice rink

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Falmouth council debates merits of 2nd ice rink

FALMOUTH — Does the town need a second enclosed ice rink?

At least one group of residents thinks so. Rink Committee representatives on Monday presented their ideas for transforming the outdoor Village Park ice rink and adjacent warming hut into a $2.8 million full-sized indoor rink, storage space, locker rooms and meeting area that could top 29,000 square feet.

Touting their proposal as a year-round, multi-use facility that could save the town money, committee Chairmen Charlie Hurdman and Hugh Coxe and architect  Andy Hyland appeared before the Town Council to secure provisional support from councilors before continuing to pursue design details and fundraising.

According to the committee representatives, the demand for ice time from school hockey teams and youth and adult hockey clubs has increased. With more schools sanctioning girls' hockey, Title IX requirements have also become a driver in the push for additional hours.

Under the plan, the building would be cooled and used as an ice rink for about 24 weeks of the year, from mid-October through March. For the remaining months, artificial turf could be installed for indoor soccer, baseball and summer concerts that might otherwise be rained out.

"The town would gain benefits, not just for ice, but for year-round sports," Hyland said.

In addition, the indoor rink would mitigate noise and evening lights that have annoyed some of the facility's neighbors, Hurdman told the council.

The revenue-neutral proposal could save the town insurance, utility and maintenance costs, the representatives said.

Though councilors stopped short of halting the project, several were apprehensive about the community's need for the space, the timing of such a proposal during a recession and the loss of informal, open skate time at the outdoor rink.

"I've gotten a lot of negative feedback already," Councilor Cathy Breen said.

Councilors also posed several questions the committee couldn't or wouldn't answer – key among them, whether the existing Family Ice Center is receptive to a second indoor rink right next door and whether the two facilities would compete or collaborate.

"Family Ice is probably not ready to jump on board," Hyland said.

Attempts to reach Family Ice Center Executive Director Kevin Sackville, who was out of town, were unsuccessful.

The rink boosters said they plan to approach fundraising for the non-profit rink in a manner similar to Family Ice Center's campaign in the late 1990s. When pushed for a figure, Hyland estimated the rink could cost $2.8 million and said they expected to receive regional support and big donations.

Located on town-owned property next to Family Ice Center on Hat Trick Road, the original outdoor rink opened in 1972. The warming hut was added by the Jaycees the following year, according to Falmouth Community Programs Director Lucky D'Ascanio. In 1998, the rink went through a complete overhaul, with improvements to the hockey boards and a surface upgrade that would accommodate rollerblading and roller hockey in summer.

The non-profit Family Ice Center has been operating nearly 10 years, leasing its land from the town for $1 per year. When it first opened, it had an agreement with the town to provide indoor ice time for Falmouth activities at a reduced price; that agreement has since expired, although Family Ice continues to provide public skating on an outdoor refrigerated surface at no cost to residents.

After offering a "disclaimer" that she is both a hockey wife and mom, Councilor Teresa Pierce said she had to consider Falmouth as a whole and asked if there would always be reduced prices for Falmouth and access for children at the proposed indoor rink.

"When you say there is no cost to the town, well, we're going to give up space and more people will be coming into that area of town – there is some cost," she said.

Councilor Bonny Rodden said she is "intrigued by the idea" and wants to know what residents think. "Some people have said that the whole area will be tied up with hockey," she said.

She also referred to a failed citizen-led drive of several years ago for a swimming pool. "I want to make sure we know what we're doing," Rodden said.

The Rink Committee members said they will continue to work with the town's Parks and Community Programs Advisory Committee as they move forward with their plans.

In other business, councilors:

• Decided Pleasant Hill Fire Station will remain open until the end of October, giving councilors more time and more statistics to make a decision on whether to close the facility.

• Deferred a decision on whether to move forward with a workforce housing proposal for Woods Road so the plan can be reviewed and tweaked by the town's attorney. In addition, Town Manager Nathan Poore was instructed to look at another piece of property as a possible location for the affordable housing. Fewer than half a dozen people spoke against the project during a public hearing, which was continued to the next council meeting.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.

This story was edited on May 14, 2009, to clarify the relationship between Family Ice Center and the town of Falmouth.

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