It seems like hockey was just starting and now the snow is almost gone and another season has come to an end. Our association has had a lot of success this past season with many teams winning districts and a couple advancing to State. The state of Orono Youth Hockey is very strong and the future looks bright.
I’m writing to you today about our arena, which is in need of repair. As you may know, our Association and Arena are set up as charitable entities. This is unique, as only about 2% of arenas are set up this way. Most are owned by a municipality or school district. Because of this, we rely completely on the revenues from the rink to sustain it, and our Association along with the High School programs are the biggest tenants of the rink. The recent referendum that passed in Orono doesn’t provide anything for our arena although we are certainly big supporters of anything that makes Orono more competitive and enhances our community and school.
I wanted to share some information with you on something that a handful of people from the OYHA board, the Arena Board, and the high school boys and girls coaches have been working on for the last year. As you may know, about a year and a half ago the arena board turned over and we put a new board in place. The arena board is comprised of three members that our youth association appoints and one from the school board and one from the city. They have been hard at work with the operations of the arena and have put some new practices and policies in place that should benefit the operations going forward. It is clear from doing an assessment of the building that there are some things that need to be done to improve the facility to make it better for our Association; and more fiscally viable and competitive with what other programs are doing.
Our committee has identified three areas where we can improve our facility that will benefit not only our program, but also the high school programs.
The first involves changing the size of our rink from Olympic size to NHL size (15 feet narrower), which is what most rinks are. This summer Marriucci arena and the Olympic rink at Plymouth Ice Center will be changed to NHL size, and in the near future, there won’t be any Olympic size rinks around. As our teams prepare to play in sections, state, and other tournaments, our teams often aren’t ready for the faster pace and less space you have in a smaller rink. The high school teams end up practicing for post tournament play at Thaler Arena to be ready to compete on the smaller ice. Changing the rink size involves moving the boards in fifteen feet on the locker room side, reconfiguring the boards so they fit, breaking up the concrete and capping off the coolant pipes to fit the new size, and finally putting in new concrete to complete it. There are a number of benefits to making this change. The first is that our rink was built in 1995 and the company, Rink Tech, which does a lot of the work on our cooling system, has recommended that it’s probably time to replace our main lines in the coolant system. We could do this when we have the concrete broken up. Obviously, it’s less expensive to cool a smaller area, therefore putting less stress on our compressors going forward and adding efficiency. The additional space that we create, 15 feet by almost 200 feet, gives teams that are warming up or doing some dryland a lot more room to operate. The extra space above this area could be very useful as I will address shortly. We had the company that would do the work on the boards inspect them and fortunately we can reuse most of our boards. The exception is a couple on each end where the Zamboni hits them when surfacing the ice.
The second area that needs to be addressed is the boys and girls high school locker rooms. If you have been in them, you would remember it. They are storage rooms that were converted into locker rooms and are bordering on not even being sanitary. They have outside walls that are ice cold, and then you get twenty or thirty girls or boys with their wet sweaty gear hanging in there, and it’s a mess. It’s even worse if you are a JV player because they don’t even have a place to put their gear. They have to put the wet gear back in their bag since there isn’t space for it in the locker rooms. This leads to all kinds of skin rashes & etc. from having to put on wet gear every day. In addition to that, there is one shower in the building and one bathroom for girls and one for boys. Often before a game or practice you see kids going out of the locker room with skate guards on to use the bathrooms in the lobby. No one showers after practice because we don’t have the facilities. The same thing happens in the morning with kids that are doing programs before school. Teams that travel a long way to play Orono have to either not shower, or arrange to go over to the school after games, if that’s possible. As the rink has tried to attract outside teams, like a junior team, they have been told it doesn’t work if there aren’t showers to use. Because of this, we have been working with an architect to put together a plan for new locker rooms and I have enclosed that for your review. There would be equal size locker rooms for the boys and girls with bathrooms, and showers and improved ventilation to rectify the problems I have illustrated. It would be a locker room the youth in our association could walk through and take pride in, hoping to someday be a Spartan. New locker rooms also free up room for storage in the arena which is very limited.
The third area, which I alluded to earlier, is building a mezzanine level above the new space created from where we move the boards in. That level would include shooting areas, weight training, meeting rooms, study areas for kids, and would give us a place where we could do dryland onsite. We are one of the only associations that doesn’t have a strong dryland program for our kids, and it’s mainly because we don’t have facilities for it. If you consult with USA Hockey, dryland is a major component of overall training and development for hockey players. In addition, many members of our Association spend money on training and development outside of Orono in the summer and during the school year. Being able to offer those types of programs right in Orono would be a game changer for our youth program. As word has slipped out about us contemplating some of these changes to our arena, we have already had a number of groups express an interest in offering training programs at our arena. It’s not only a benefit to have programs offered at our arena, but those types of programs generate revenue for the arena and pay for the operation of it. This helps us keep costs of our youth program from escalating. We want to keep hockey in Orono affordable for anyone that wants to play.
Some people may ask why we aren’t putting in an additional sheet of ice during the project. That is certainly a long term goal, but would add a lot to the overall cost of the project. If we had the money we would, but the good thing is that the work that we are going to do now won’t impact the ability to add an additional sheet of ice in the future. After we get these improvements done, a future board can still add a 2nd sheet of ice.
There have been times where the arena renovation has been discussed during the past few years, and each time it has died without anything getting done. A lot of people think the time is right for this project to move forward. We have a couple of people that have already stepped up to make donations to get this off the ground. The total cost is going to be approximately $1,750,000. We would also replace our dehumidifying system and our cooling system which would add $250,000 to the project total. This is long overdue and would help the air quality in the arena dramatically.
We are going to start with the boards, and then see where we are and address the locker room, and finally the mezzanine level based on funds we have.
We have an aggressive timeline with the work on moving the boards and changing the size of the rink starting in mid-May. The rest of the project will start as soon as possible after that, with the goal of having it completed by the upcoming season. Speaking for the Booster Board and the Arena Board and the High School programs, we are going to be asking for everyone to participate in making this happen. Please reach out to me or any of the other board members if you have questions or concerns, or want to make a contribution to this project.
Because it is set up as a 501c3 organization, your contribution would be deductible, but you should consult with your tax advisor.
I will be coming to you in coming weeks with additional information and updates on the project and the fundraising for it.
Pete Eckerline - OYHA President
Orono Youth Hockey Association (OYHA) and Orono Ice Arena (OIA) are 501c3 organizations. Your contribution is tax deductible - consult with your tax advisor.
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