Scarborough hockey rink project in jeopardy

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SCARBOROUGH — If major donors do not come forward by the end of next March, the group proposing construction of an ice hockey rink will hang up its skates.

After a year of targeted fundraising, the grassroots group Friends of Scarborough Hockey this week said it has not been able to raise any money from donors with deep pockets.

Jeff Murray, one of three founding members of the FOSH, on Tuesday said the nonprofit group has not been able to get its fundraising “off the ground.”

Murray, the fundraising chairman and a father of three children, all of whom have played or still play on the Scarborough High School hockey team, said the group has not raised any funds.

Starting with a handful of dedicated parents of ice hockey players and figure skaters, Friends of Scarborough Hockey was founded two years ago in response to the lack of a convenient and accessible skating rink.

The closest rinks are in Saco, Portland or Gorham, and those arenas are largely used by private or professional teams.  

Practice locations for student athletes tend to change each year. Often, players from the Scarborough High School hockey team would have to be bused to one of the three locations for a 5:30 a.m. practice, to accommodate school start times and other teams’ schedules. 

Consequently, parents in Scarborough mobilized and drafted plans to build an approximately 40,000-square-foot rink for $5.5 million, next to the Benjamin F. Wentworth Intermediate School parking lot, off Gorham Road. The facility would accommodate students not only from Scarborough schools, but also from Cape Elizabeth and South Portland. 

Designed primarily for hockey and figure skating, it is also intended be used as a multi-functional community facility for other sports, like indoor soccer and lacrosse. 

The proposal was approved by the Town Council last December and detailed preliminary sketch plans were presented to the Planning Board in January

FOSH worked with several fundraising organizations to learn how to effectively raise money for the project, according to a statement from Chelsie Woods, a FOSH board member. It soon became clear that it could take closer to 2 1/2 years to raise the money needed, she said.

“We couldn’t establish an anchor donor to get us started in the whole process,” Murray said. “And that was our focus, ultimately, to try to find large donors.”

Since the project can’t unfold without the promise of multi-million dollar donations, it has stopped gaining momentum.

Ideally, the group needs one or two donors who are each willing to pledge at least $2 million, Woods said.

Without those substantial pledges to seed a campaign, fundraising efforts typically cannot attract enough small-donor support to succeed.

“The balance of the project is at a stage where it wouldn’t make any sense to spend time on other tasks,” Murray said. 

“When we started this effort a couple years ago, naively, we felt the fundraising was maybe the least of our concerns,” he said. “Obviously that’s not true. (Now) it’s most of our concern.”

“We really need the community’s help, hopefully that is in the form of someone local to step forward,” Murray said. 

In the meantime, ice hockey players from Scarborough will continue practicing at OA Sports Center in Saco.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

A sketch of what a proposed ice arena would look like in Scarborough. Fundraising, however, is at a standstill, according to Friends of Scarborough Hockey.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.