Goodbye, Ristuccia Arena.
The Bruins and president Cam Neely said Tuesday that they will build a practice facility for the team in Brighton, relocating from the aging and outdated Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. Construction is slated to begin next spring and be completed in fall 2016.
The Bruins have held their preseason camp and practiced in Wilmington since the 1987-1988 season, and the rink has been surpassed by practice facilities around the league. It was something that frustrated players and could eventually have become a factor in free agent signings, had the team not been in the midst of such success on the ice.
The Montreal Canadiens, for example, practice at the Complexe Sportif Bell, a facility that opened in 2008. It features two rinks, an indoor soccer field, a restaurant, and medical facilities, and a shopping mall is nearby. The rinks are used by the public and local leagues when not needed by the Canadiens.
For the Bruins, a new practice facility in the city offers a range of possibilities in providing more amenities to players, bringing in more revenue, and bonding with fans.
Many of the Bruins live in Boston, so a Brighton practice facility will be more convenient for them, Neely said. The facility also will have ample space for training and for the equipment that’s needed to help players recover from injuries.
From a business standpoint, meanwhile, “internal discussions” are under way on how to best utilize the new space, Neely said. The facility will have a pro shop, for one thing. And it will give the Bruins more opportunities to take advantage of corporate sponsorships.
Because TD Garden is getting busier, Neely said, it has gotten “more challenging” to host corporate events there. A modern facility in the city will give the team more flexibility in booking such events, he said.
In addition to the headquarters for New Balance, the Boston company known for athletic footwear and apparel, plans for the project call for a 175-room hotel, office space, a new commuter rail station, and a sports complex. The complex will feature a state-of-the-art indoor track-and-field facility with seating for 3,500 and a Mondo track surface that has the capacity to hydraulically bank turns, based on the distance of a race.
Earlier plans called for the sports complex to have a hockey rink. But as a result of the Bruins’ announcement, plans for the 300,000-square-foot sports complex have evolved.
Now the Bruins are looking to develop a stand-alone hockey facility on the site. Precisely where the Bruins facility would be located is being worked out, said a spokeswoman for NB Development Group.
Controlled by New Balance’s ownership, NB Development is the lead developer of the Boston Landing project.
In April, NB named HYM Investment Group LLC as its co-development manager, citing HYM’s experience with mixed-use projects that unfold in phases.
HYM, led by a former Boston Redevelopment Authority director, Thomas N. O’Brien, is also planning to develop a large complex on the site of the Government Center Garage on Congress Street in downtown Boston.
The New Balance headquarters is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015 and the commuter rail station in the fall of 2016. The hotel and office building phases of the project would probably be completed later.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Boston Bruins, a truly world-class organization, to Boston Landing,” said NB Development’s managing director, Jim Halliday. “This agreement reflects our vision of Boston Landing that transcends typical brick-and-mortar real estate development by truly enhancing and activating the area’s experience for tenants and residents and also creating a destination use for visitors.”
The Bruins do not yet have details on the design of the practice facility.
“Since joining the Bruins in a front-office capacity, a goal of mine has been to move the Bruins into a first-class practice facility, and this agreement moves us closer to accomplishing that goal,” Neely said.
The Bruins had long talked about securing a new practice facility, with another option being constructing something on the footprint of the old Boston Garden, adjacent to TD Garden, which opened in 1995.
“I am thrilled that we have found the Bruins a new practice home within the Boston city limits,” said Bruins principal Charlie Jacobs. “Our goal is to set the industry standard in everything that we do, and we are confident that our new practice facility will do just that.”Amalie Benjamin
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