Milton officials are hopeful of entering a long-term lease with the state for the Ulin Memorial Rink, but first they have to figure out if the rink can be profitable.
“Can we make the numbers work?” asked planning director William Clark. “We know we have to buy a new Zamboni, increase the size of the compressors. What kind of bonding do we need to make these things correct, and do we have enough hours in the year to make the money back?”
The answers to those burning financial questions are being sought by town officials and a team at Curry College, which has maintained and managed the rink on the town’s behalf since 2010.
Milton entered a five-year lease agreement with the state in 2010 to help save the structure, which is owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“We didn’t want to let it go out to somebody and not have control for youth hockey for the high school,” Clark said.
Curry College soon came on board, putting over $200,000 into the DCR facility to keep it up and running. In 2013 alone, Curry has spent $22,000 on repairs.
Although the lease has more than a year to go, the state has the option of taking over the building with just 30 days notice. So the college and the town are trying to reduce the uncertainty over the future.
“The state wants to take back all their rinks, now that they are beginning to make money again,” said Denis Keohane, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “That’s where we are trying to negotiate a long-term deal with them. . . if we can do that, Curry can rent along with us for 25 years.”
Selectmen reviewed the topic at their meeting Thursday, but made no decisions.
If officials determine that the rink can be profitable, the first step will be getting out of a contract that allows the DCR to take over with only 30 days notice.
The goal then would be reaching a 25-year lease, which would allow Curry and the town to make larger upgrades that can be paid for over the long term.
Milton officials also are looking at raising rates for using the rink.
“We’re only allowed to charge what was charged in 2009,” Clark said of the rates. “We cannot keep pace with private rinks. . . we’re losing money every year running the rink because of that. We’ve sent letters for the past two years asking DCR to allow us to increase those rates.”
Bill Hickey, the DCR’s acting press secretary, said in an e-mail that his agency has the authority to enter a long-term lease through a competitive bidding process, and “will continue to work with the town and legislative delegation on this issue.”
Jessica Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.