2014-08-15 / Front Page

New rink could mean more ice time for all

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

A group of residents in Scarborough may have found a solution to the age-old problem of finding ice time for middle school and high school hockey teams.

Scarborough teams have had to rely on renting ice time at other ice rinks around southern Maine, often at inconsistent and inconvenient times.

Friends of Scarborough Hockey intend to put an end to that by building a new ice arena to “support school programs in addition to providing ice for community-based activities and adult-based programs,” according to a letter sent this week to the Scarborough Board of Education.

“There has always been a problem with ice time,” said Jeff Murray a member of the group’s board of directors. “Scarborough has always bounced from rink to rink.”

According to the letter, “the lack of available ice to support youth ice-based sports in Scarborough and surrounding communities is having a negative impact on our students, specifically the middle school and high school ice hockey programs.”

For example last winter, the hockey program had to book ice time — sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m. — at the University of New England’s Alfond Forum Ice Arena or the MHG Centre in Saco.

Murray, the president of the Girls Hockey Boosters, said in total the girls’ varsity team, boys’ varsity team and boys’ junior varsity team had nearly 70 practices at 5:30 a.m. and others at 8:30 p.m.

Murray said last year the hockey program in Scarborough was “constantly juggling” both practice time and transportation. With the lack of buses operating at 5:30 a.m., Murray said, the teams had to rent the town’s Community Services bus to get to and from practice.

The proposed location of the arena is next to Scarborough High School and behind the Mobil gas station, Bangor Savings Bank and the Oak Hill Professional Center on Route 1. Right now much of the property is used for teacher and staff parking. Board member Lee Allen said the group will conduct a parking needs analysis as part of its filing with the planning department to make sure there is enough parking around the high school to accommodate the supplanted parking.

Board member Chuck Bradish, president of the Scarborough Ice Hockey Booster Association, said Friends of Scarborough Hockey looked at several properties, including sites on Haigis Parkway and near Scarborough Downs.

Murray said it was Town Manager Tom Hall who suggested the proposed site.

“This wouldn’t have been on the top of our list,” Bradish said

The idea to construct a new ice arena came in May after Scarborough High School Athletic Director Mike LeGage told Murray and Bradish that ice time was going to be even harder to come by because the MHG Centre was expanding its youth hockey program, meaning less ice time would be rented to area high schools. Murray said they decided to take “preventative action” and soon began looking into the prospects of constructing a new ice arena in Scarborough.

Allen said the proposed 37,000-square-foot arena would house a NHL-size hockey rink, seating for 650 spectators, 10 locker rooms, a concession stand, a party room and meeting room.

Allen said after consulting with Bill Bray, Scarborough’s traffic consultant, it was determined that, although the proposed property has frontage on Gorham Road, the ice arena would only be accessed by Municipal Drive, at least for now.

Aside from being available for Scarborough hockey teams and other youth and adult skating activities, Murray said the rink would be rented to outside groups, possibly the Cape Elizabeth and South Portland hockey programs. Both, Murray said, have expressed interest in making the new facility their home rink.

“They have the same issues Scarborough has. There is no ice arena convenient to them,” Murray said, adding that each program — Scarborough, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth – would have its own locker room.

One ice arena being the home rink for several hockey programs is not uncommon in the area. South Portland and Cape Elizabeth currently play home games at the Portland Ice Arena, along with Portland/Deering and Cheverus. Biddeford Ice Arena hosts home games for Biddeford, Thornton Academy and Massabesic high schools. Family Ice Center is home ice for the Falmouth and Greely high school hockey programs.

The group would fund, design and operate the facility. Friends of Scarborough Hockey is looking to raise $5.5 million to get the arena up and running. Funding will come from donations by businesses and individuals and not through tax dollars.

Bradish said a year’s operating cost has been built in to the project’s cost as a “safety net.”

Allen said Gawron Turgeon Architects and his firm, Northeast Civil Solutions, have done preliminary designs and work and Gawron Turgeon is working on 3-D artistic renderings.

Murray and Bradish were expected to present the plan to the board of education on Thursday, Aug. 14. The hope, Allen said is to be open by fall 2015.

The town council was expected to review the plan on Wednesday, Aug. 20 and approve a memorandum of understanding. As part of that agreement, Allen said the town will give the land to the group in order to build the arena.

“It’s a chance for the council to look at what we are proposing and give the town manager the authorization that it is something that they want to go through with,” he said.

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