About a half million dollars has been poured into improvements to LoConte Rink, and the city hopes the state will spend about $450,000 more soon.
New boards, glass, benches, locker rooms and handicap accessibility are all expected to be ready to go by early October, Mayor Michael McGlynn said Monday. All of the improvements have come through state funding.
McGlynn showed off the improvements, which are still a work in progress, in a press conference at the rink Monday afternoon.
The city took operational control of the rink from the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation last year in a 5-year agreement allows the city to give control back to the state at any point if the city cannot make ends meet. But that won't be happening, McGlynn said.
“We’ve been able to raise enough money to pay all the bills and we have no intention of giving it back,” he said.
The agreement calls for the state to provide financial - and other - resources, but leaves operations of the rink up to the city. It works for the state because the DCR doesn't have the capacity to offer the depth in programs the city can, Ed Lambert, DCR commissioner, said during the press conference.
“We’re happy to partner and help provide resources, but we do not have the operational capacity to go out and provide every kind of program through state operations,” Lambert said.
The rink could use another $450,000 to replace its de-humidification system and make the ceiling more energy efficient, McGlynn said.
The rink's current season runs from early October to mid-March, but further improvements could allow it to remain open year-round, opening it up to more rental opportunities. The city recently had discussions with a Boston-based university looking to use the space in the off-season, McGlynn said.
“Once we have the rink really set up the way we want it, we’re going to look at year-round rentals," McGlynn said.
Steve DeBenedictis, Medford High's boys hockey coach was impressed with the improvements made so far.
“You look around here when you walk in, it’s amazing how different this is going to be from what we’ve had," he said.
High school girls hockey coach David McCarthy said the improvements will benefit the whole community.
“When community members see what’s happening they’re going to be pleasantly surprised...” McCarthy said. “You don’t have to be a hockey player to appreciate a facility like this.”
Along with the improvements to the rink, new locker rooms will also be ready to go for the upcoming season. Getting locker rooms for the recently-formed girls hockey team was the initial reason the city sought improvements, McGlynn said.
"This all started with the quest to get the girls team a new locker room and it grew from there,” he said.