Photo: Belmont’s ‘Skip’ Viglirolo Skating Rink.
First, the White Field House. Then, the new Underwood Pool. Next, the town’s skating rink?
After two successful public/private partnerships restored and saved a pair of town/school facilities in the past year, word is spreading that negotiations are underway for a possible collaboration between the town of Belmont and either an individual or a group to renovate the town-owned ‘Skip’ Viglirolo Skating Rink located adjacent to Harris Field at 297 Concord Ave.
“There are talks, but that’s all I know,” said Belmont Town Administrator David Kale after Wednesday’s meeting of the Warrant Committee, adding that he does not know who is the outside party who reached out to Belmont officials.
People in the sports community and town government have echoed Kale’s refrain: someone or a group has shown interest in renovating the rink, the condition of which is, at best, threadbare.
But other than acknowledging there are discussions, those in the know are keeping tight-lipped.
There is little debate the skating rink, owned by the town and run through the Recreation Department, is badly in need of a complete renovation.
Built in 1971 during the height of popularity of the Boston Bruins and their star, Bobby Orr, the nearly 29,000 sq.-ft. rink was originally an open air facility until the early 1980s when it was enclosed. The rink is home to the Belmont High School Marauders Hockey teams and Belmont Youth Hockey. The rink is also available to residents for recreational use.
The unheated rink is known for its steel panel walls with gaping openings that allow the frigid outdoor temperatures to seep inside. While many hockey players say the ice benefits from the blast of cold outdoor air making for improved skating, spectators are forewarned to bundle up before venturing inside. Several years ago, a visitor from Canada told the Belmontonian editor he attended games at outdoor rinks in Calgary which were warmer than the inside of the ‘Skip.’
It is unlikely the required work needed to upgrade the skating rink is on the horizon.
According to a recent study by the Capital Budget Committee, renovating the skating rink will cost an estimated $5 to $6 million. The committee also noted such a repair is not a current priority for the town; a new $20 million police station or a $28 million Department of Public Works Yard are higher on the list of needed capital projects.
For those reasons, a collaboration between the town and outside financing is the best chance for a renovated rink in the near future. In addition, Belmont is coming off two highly successful public/private ventures in 2014. A group of residents led by Frederick Jones contributed $100,000 and hours of sweat equity to extensively renovate the eight-decade old White Memorial Field House before the start of the 2014-15 fall sports season at Belmont High School.
Last fall, Belmont Savings Bank led the effort to raise $400,000 in public money by contributing half of the amount to save the construction of the new Underwood Pool after a low bidder withdrew its bid.