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?'”