Four Draft Skating Rink Designs Revealed At Public Feedback Meeting

Photo: Steel beams in the current rink that could be used in a new rink.

After being selected as the architect to design the new town skating rink, Ted Galante‘s first official task by the Skating Rink Design Committee was to essentially take a blank sheet of paper and start drawing.

And on Thursday, April 7, the Cambridge-based architect who led the renovation of the Belmont Police Headquarters and ramped the DPW building presented four variations of a new facility to solicit resident’s feedback after a few week into the design phase.

”We don’t have all the answers yet,” said Mark Haley, the chair of the Preliminary Rink Design Committee who hosted the meeting. ”We’re just really starting our journey on this design and that’s why we are reaching out to the public to get some of their input.”

For Goden Street resident Amy Tannenbaum, it is incumbent for both committee and architect to as go commit to a thorough process as ”we’re only going to do this once … so let’s do it right.”

What was presented Thursday were first impressions, the rough outlines of possible structures with the programs a new one-sheet-of-ice rink. Galante said these “are not final plans by any stretch” but rather the first iteration of how the ice sheet will relate to locations and the programs associated with the building.

“It’s the right time to be doing this sort of project given the vintage of the building.” said Galante of the structure built as an outdoor rink in 1969 and enclosed in 1971. “It is well past its useful life and is falling apart in many, many ways,” he said pointing to the haphazard way it was constructed and expanded over the years and currently “in violation of so many building codes” as well as the American with Disability Act.

”It’s a dangerous building as it currently exists,” said Galante.

In any new design, the building must incorporate an expanded program to fit its new role: large three-season and hockey specific locker rooms, a lobby, spectator seating, office space, ice skating rentals, and many more.

The new rink – which need a great deal of energy to create ice and maintain operations – will be designed to “reduce its carbon footprint” and sets a target at being carbon neutral using geothermal heating/cooling and installing photo voltaic panels on the roof or on south-facing façades.

“I think they’ll be many people in town that htis building be operationally zero net energy,” said resident Brian Isler of School Street. ”Rather than contributing to the global climate problem spewing carbon, let’s make a contribution to the solution and very likely save a ton of money” as rinks use a great amount of electricity, he said.

The structure which will house the high school’s Boys’ and Girls’ varsity and junior varsity teams will be the highlight of the area known as west of Harris Field which is part of the new Belmont Middle and High School campus. An important aspect of any design is a requirement to fit three fields and a 90 space parking lot – a requirement by the Planning Committee when it approved the entire Middle and High School project – the inside the area’s land envelope, which Galante will incorporate in his next design reiterations.

Two of Galante’s draft designs stood out, the first was rehabilitating of the current ice rink which was not included be so much renovating “The Skip” buy rather a near complete gut rehab of the structure. Galante envisions keeping the large steel bends and and as they represent “embodied energy.” But after that, every thing else goes: the ancient surface where the ice is located will be dug out, the ice-making infrastructure – refrigeration pipe grids, chiller, and pumps – tossed, the brick and corradiated steel walls hauled away, the leaking roof taken down, and all other interior structures from offices, locker rooms, bathrooms, concessions and Zamboni storage space will be taken away. From this point, a new structure will be constructed on a greater footprint than the current rink due to the expanded programing.

“So this is one concept, one dream, one possible scenario,” said Galante.

The second design which caught the attention of many would place the rink adjacent to Concord Avenue with below grade parking for 90 vehicle and locker rooms for fall and spring sports, a rink just above street level with tennis courts on the roof. It is one of two designs which would allow the current rink to be operational while a new one is being built.

Such a design would provide more space for fields by eliminating the need for a parking lot and provide the high school tennis program with the five courts on the western campus.

“Open space in this area is so limited,” said Heather Barr of School Street, noting the advantage this plan would have being flexible where along Concord Avenue this could be situated.

The other designs includes one preferred by the school committee and the district which is perpendicular to the current rink adjacent to Harris Field and flushed to the commuter rail tracks. It would allow easy access to fall and spring teams to the locker rooms and would push the rink and associated parking away from Concord Avenue which is favored by residents in nearby neighborhoods. It would also have a place for a concession stand that is currently adjacent to the White Field House.

Rink adjacent to commuter rail tracks.

Like the renovation concept, the perpendicular option would require the hockey program to seek a new “home” for two years as the structure would be built

The final design would place the rink behind the Mobil service station.

”These [designs] are concepts,” said Galante at the end of his 15 minute presentation. ”These are ideas. They are ways of considering how we might think about … creat[ing] something that is more energy independent and not in violation of so many codes and is safe and forward looking for the next 50 years.”

What each of the Galante’s initial designs don’t include is a price tag. And the cost of some features – below ground parking, roof tennis courts, elevators to be ADA compliant – could quickly “x” out any design or specific features.

During the public feedback many tennis supporters raised their voice in support of including five courts on the roof of the building which Galante presented in the four scenarios or on the grounds. Others pitched non-hockey skating – “Don’t forget our figure skaters,” said Goden Street’s Anne Marie Mahoney as she and her daughters learned the sport at the Skip – with skate rentals and locker rooms for ice skaters, using the playing space for other sports if the building is not a 12-month ice facility, and the need for solar panels and other carbon-free energy.

Haley said previously the committee will present two designs to the Select Board in the coming weeks.

Rink Design Committee Found Its Architect And Maybe A New Plan To Think Over

Photo: Ted Galante of Galante Architects has been selected to present a design for a new skating rink

They found their designer and now the Preliminary Rink Design Committee is ready to introduce a familiar face to the Select Board at a joint meeting on Monday, March 14 to advance the project to replace the dilapidated facility affectionately known as “The Skip.”

After interviewing three candidates, the committee gave the nod to Cambridge-based Galante Architects and its principal, Ted Galante. If that name rings a bell, it should as Galante won universal praise for his renovation design of the nearly century old Belmont Police Headquarters and the temporary improvements to the Department of Public Works’ building which both opened last year.

His innovative work at the police station included adding an addition to the existing structure while gut its interior resulting saving the town millions of dollars and a decade if it had elected to build a new headquarters. If selected, Galante will join the owner’s project manager Tom Gatzunis from CHA Corp., reuniting the “Tom and Ted” team responsible for the police and DPW projects.

Galante told Committee member Mark Haley earlier in the week that a “very preliminary” design concept could be presented to the Select Board and School Committee “in the first couple of weeks in April.”

“We’ll have some meat on the bone to talk about,” said Haley, who is heading the committee, at its Thursday, March 10 meeting.

The committee agreed that the preliminary design needs to come as a report to Town Meeting in May so the Select Board can place a debt exclusion for the project on November’s ballot. An 2021 feasibility study of a new rink located by the commuter rail tracks adjacent to Harris Field came in the $20-million price range.

Haley also indicated that he will suggest on Monday the committee sees at least three alternatives plans for the rink:

  • Construct a new rink.
  • Renovate the existing structure.
  • A new alternative in which the rink is either renovated or a new rink is located at the current site, with both plans incorporating the White Field House.

The inclusion of the White Field House in any new design recently became a possibility when the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee pulled funds for the demolition of the 70-year-old structure (along with money for the renovation of the fields west of Harris) to replenish the middle and high school projects contingency funds after they were depleted by a shock of Covid-related expenses.

Haley confessed there is no long term study for a White Field House addition to the rink, “it’s just what are the possibilities and what are the opportunities for the time.”

At the March 14 meeting, the committee will approach the Select Board to broaden its scope by incorporating the fields west of Harris Field in its design work.

Several members said to come up with the most economical overall design would require expanding the committee’s scope to link the fields and rink “in combination” allowing for a more holistic approach to the project.

And while the committee wants to add the playing grounds to its purview, it will specify to the Select Board that funding for the field will come from a separate source. In addition, members agreed that the total square footage of the field space must not be decreased in the new plan.

“I think people would not be happy with that,” said member Meg Moriarty, who represents the School Committee on the group.

”I think in order to get the best rink design … there are so many factors that we’re dealing with: parking, locker rooms, space for other sports,” said Frank French Jr. “Looking at how the fields will lay out in relation to the most efficient rink design … I think makes sense and is necessary in order to achieve our goal.”

While agreeing with the committee on creating an overall design overview that includes both the fields and rink is the way to go, Gatzunis informed the committee that the Middle and High School Building Committee found that the current site of the rink is “an absolute constraint” in accomplishing the goal of building the “most efficient and economical rink.”

Whether or not the rink stays at its present location as new construction or a renovation or is built where the 2021 feasibility study said is optimal, “[I]t will at least answer the question for the community at large: ‘Did you look at everything that you could? Is there a better way to build this mousetrap?'”

Town Kick-Starts Rink Project With Temporary Building Committee And $250K

Photo: A conceptional design of the new Belmont Skating Rink by the architectural firm Perkins+Will

With new predictions the current skating rink is on its last legs and with $250,000 of state funds to facilitate building a replacement facility, the Belmont Select Board appointed members of a temporary committee – dubbed the Preliminary Rink Design Committee – to jump start the planning and design of a new rink a good half-a-year before a permanent committee would be named at Town Meeting in May.

The idea behind the interim panel “is to get started on preliminary rink design … and start to execute on the $250,000 that was provided to us by the state,” said Mark Paolillo of the Select Board who sits on the Skating Rink Financing Committee which is formulating a plan to pay for a single sheet of ice that will come with a $20 million price tag which was the estimate from a concept design from Perkins+Will.

The last month has seen the rink project spring to life. That wasn’t the case this past May when town officials convinced resident Alex Corbett to remove a citizen’s petition amendment at Town Meeting to begin the
formal building process by establishing a committee as it was putting the cart before the horse as the town did not have the available money.

But with a committee up and running to derive areas of founding the project and $250,000 on the table, the town has decided to push and push hard on getting the design process underway.

The major move in the comes after Town Facilities Director David Blazon reaffirmed what has been known for more than a decade; the nearly half century old building is within a couple of years from seeing its mechanicals and infrastructure collapse for a final time.

The goal of the temporary committee is to hire an architect to produce a 30 percent design document which defines the major design elements of the project and refine the project’s scope, schedule and budget that the project
design team can commit to delivering to the building committee.

Since a full-time building committee can not be formulated until the town moderator Michael Widmer appoints the members at the annual Town Meeting, the town was facing a six month delay before using the funds earmarked two weeks ago.

“It’s a committee to move this forward with the money we have so it stays on track,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash. “So rather than lose time between December and May that we can get this [process] moving.”

And the Select Board is striving to have at least a 30 percent design plan completed to present to Town Meeting as a report.

The temporary committee is made up of four members of the Rink Financing Committee and three from the Permanent Building Committee with Pat Brusch as chair. The group includes former Select Board Chair Tom Caputo, youth hockey supporter Frank French, Jr., the School Committee’s Meghan Moriarty, former Belmont High Boys’ Hockey Coach Dante Muzzioli, current Boys’ assistant coach Bill Shea, Steve Sala and former Belmont High Girls coach Mark Haley.

The first meeting of the new temporary committee will take place at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16 on Zoom.