Perhaps nobody feels the need for an indoor ice rink in Hopkinton more than Chris MacPherson every Tuesday morning during hockey season.
“We do have one 5:30 a.m. practice on Tuesday and that’s really tough,” said the Hopkinton High hockey coach, whose team travels 25 minutes each way to play and practice at Marlborough’s Navin Skating Arena.
“I know the kids have to get up at 4:30. I think I have my clock set for 4:12, so it’s a tough one, and they have to get back to school after that, so we only have 50 minutes to practice.”
With ice time at a premium, a situation that means forcing skaters and their parents to rise at ungodly hours, the Demons Youth Hockey Association has been working for the last three years toward building an ice rink at Legacy Farms, a new mixed-use development off Route 135.
But several recent events have brought Hopkinton’s hometown rink closer to reality.
Earlier this month, the Board of Selectmen voted to endorse the Demons’ rink proposal, which has won the approval of Legacy Farms developers. The vote paves the way for the Demons to start raising the $3 million the nonprofit group needs to build the rink.
And last week the Planning Board voted unanimously to support the project in its next phase.
“It’s very exciting and very fundamental, because it has taken a long time to get us to this point,” said Demons board member Ivan Moore. “Everything prior to this was merely a kind of collaboration, speculation, what have you. Nothing was formal. Now the Demons have received a formal sign of approval to take the next step.”
But the next steps involve not only raising $3 million but also executing a complicated land deal involving the town, the Demons, and Legacy Farms.
Under the deal, the Demons would pay $100 for 9 acres of a 19-acre plot Legacy Farms donated to the town. Ownership of the approximately 40,000-square-foot rink would revert back to the town after 30 years.
While recognizing that the deal is complicated, Board of Selectmen chairman John Mosher said he has faith it can come to fruition.
“Based on what we saw, it still looked like a legitimate benefit to the community,” Mosher said, while noting that there are many hurdles to clear. “It has to be shown that it has a viable financial model, and that’s one of the really key points.”
He said the project will be bonded so that the property could be returned to its original state when the town inherits it after 30 years.
“Obviously, the town doesn’t want to inherit something that is going to cost significant amounts of money,” Mosher said. “So the intent from the beginning is this is something that will be revenue-positive.”
Moore said the Demons organization is hiring a firm that specializes in helping nonprofits raise money. He said it will determine in the coming weeks whether the rink can realistically be financed. Under the terms of the proposal drafted by Legacy Farms developers, if the sale of the land is completed the Demons would have 180 days to prove the group can finance the rink. The association would also have 18 months to start construction and three years to complete the project; otherwise the land reverts to Legacy Farms.
“Ultimately, the town and Legacy Farms have some requirements from their side and milestones we must meet,” Moore said. “There are some things on our side we must establish — fund-raising and all those things.”
Legacy Farms manager Roy MacDowell said the subdivision would have 940 homes built within seven years.
“We think it’s a nice attribute to the town,” MacDowell said of the rink.
With its roughly 200 parking spaces and public rest rooms, the rink would be a hub for Legacy Farms’ walking trails.
Under the use agreement with the town, the Hopkinton High hockey team and the community would get to use the rink for 10 hours a week at “minimal or no cost,” and during “reasonable hours,” Mosher said.
The rink would allow the 150 to 175 Hopkinton, Holliston, and Ashland families that participate in Demons programs to skip the trips as far as Westborough, Marlborough, and Franklin for ice time.
“Hopefully, it will provide relief for parents of hockey players in our town,” Mosher said.
MacPherson — who took over Hopkinton High’s hockey program when the idea for the rink was first floated — is patiently waiting for relief from his early wake-up call on Tuesdays.
“The sooner it is in, the better for everybody,” said MacPherson, who teaches physical education at Hopkins Elementary School in town. “I knew it would be a long process, but I didn’t know how long it would be. I haven’t wasted too much energy thinking about how long it would take.”