Created on Thursday, 21 February 2008 07:15
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 February 2008 07:15
By Don Swain
Thank you for your letter to the editor. There seems to be a commonly held opinion among Valley residents that the loss of businesses in the area is just a market correction and may actually be healthy in the long term. I disagree. And I think your concerns, as a frequent visitor to The Valley, support my view. But my response to your letter will focus on the Skatium. And, in order to best explain why you arrived to find the Skatium closed during Christmas, I have provided a brief description of the facility, starting from the "git go."
The Skatium came into being in 1992 because a few individuals believed that it would be a great recreation outlet for kids as well as an asset for the local tourism economy. It has always been held together by a small corps of volunteers, led by the Vasseur brothers. Most of the facility currently in use was built by volunteers. It was built on land generously offered by Mad River Green partners and financed by a few individual donors, the Mad River Valley Recreation Committee, and the very understanding Northfield Savings Bank. It has succeeded to the point where it supports a seasonal manager, a few part-time employees and basic operating expenses.
Its originators opted for an incremental approach to development, adding equipment gradually over a four-year period and always envisioned an enclosed facility as well as an outdoor sheet of ice. As such, it was intended to become a multi-functional year-round venue for a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities that can enhance the vitality of the local economy.
Until this year, these plans have met resistance at the local permit level. Consequently, critical equipment, most notably the dasher boards, coolant piping and Zamboni room, are well beyond their life expectancy and need replacing. The coolant piping could not be used this season. Therefore, we are depending on the weather to maintain natural ice, which is why the rink was not open over the Christmas holidays. Although we did run articles in <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> to this effect, I feel that we were remiss in not posting a sign at the rink explaining the situation, so that people like you would understand.
We are now on track for replacing much of the facility this summer. The plan is to replace the existing asphalt surface with a poured concrete slab with integral coolant piping, typical of most rinks. This will allow us to spray on 7,000 gallons of water in less than 24 hours to create a skatable ice sheet, even when the outdoor temperature is above freezing. By contrast, the existing uneven asphalt with piping placed on the surface requires over 50,000 gallons of water to be sprayed over a one to two week period, provided temperatures remain below freezing and it doesn't snow. The plan is to construct the new surface in such a way that an arena structure can be added at some future date. We already have obtained replacement dasher boards. And local permits for the above work have been obtained. The remaining state permits are expected before this spring.
Which brings me to your query about supporting The Skatium. Our remaining challenge is to secure the necessary funding to realize the project. The preliminary cost estimate for the new surface and piping is $320,000 cash plus some volunteer labor and materials donations. Revenues from ice rinks typically cannot support significant amounts of debt service. The Skatium is no different. The cash budget will therefore need to be met by donations. The Skatium is registered with the IRS as a charitable corporation under section 501.C.3 of the Internal Revenue Service Code. Therefore, donations are tax deductible. We hope that your suggestion that financial support from the towns and ski areas together with donations from individuals will fall on sympathetic ears and allow The Skatium to continue to provide what we feel is a valuable community service.
Don Swain lives in Warren.