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This is a call for community input. As a member of the Mad River Recreation District, I wish to reach out to the local community in an effort to support one of The Valley's most valuable recreation resources. Your input is of great importance in setting a direction for the future of this wonderful asset.
The Skatium opened in 1993 for public skating in Waitsfield. It was the
product of generous donations and countless man hours of volunteer work
by people with a vision for creating an ice arena that provides a
recreation outlet for kids, Valley residents and tourists, as well as a
facility that can be used for a variety of Valley events and functions.
For years The Skatium was host to many organized events and was a
popular destination for public skating.
Unfortunately, time has taken a toll on the current facilities. Due to obsolescence, the refrigeration system became unusable in 2007 and it became more and more difficult to maintain quality ice. Use has steadily decreased as a result of the increased amount of downtime. Revenues needed to support this resource have equally declined. Only the tireless efforts of a few dedicated volunteers and generous contributions by a handful of local organizations and individuals keep the rink in operation.
As an example, the infrastructure of the rink was overhauled this past summer to help with maintaining ice without a refrigeration system. Given the frequency of thaws, the fact that they have been able to rebuild the ice surface each time is testament to the success of that effort and the dedication of The Skatium. Anyone fortunate enough to have skated there this year can attest to the quality of the ice.
Today, The Skatium is at a crossroads for the future. The board of directors has created a master plan for major renovations to the facility. These renovations include a new concrete ice-making surface and piping to facilitate ice making, new boards and glass and a roof that would guarantee ice all winter. All of these changes are designed to lengthen the operating season and improve the quality and dependability of the ice. The renovations are also designed to provide a venue for events year round. The Skatium facilities would be available for a variety of functions throughout the other seasons of the year.
However, these improvements will not come cheap. Those who are championing this project are trying to determine the true return on the investment. Keep in mind that The Skatium is a nonprofit organization designed to provide a low-cost recreation facility to The Valley. The motive behind this project is not profit, it is people. If the time and money necessary to make these changes are invested into The Skatium, will the people respond? Will the facilities be used? Is it a worthwhile project? Will the community continue to provide financial assistance?
Hamel lives in Waitsfield.