BY BRANDAN BLOM // OCT. 21, 2013 //
The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same—at least with the Max Ulin Memorial Ice Rink, that is. Curry College signed a new two-year contract in managing the rink for the town of Milton.
The college has managed the rink since 2010, when Milton signed a five-year lease with the state to take control of Ulin. However, town bylaws limit subcontracting deals to run for just three years, at the most. Curry’s contract with the town expired this summer, and the college signed a new two-year deal that runs until April 30, 2015. Curry was the only bidder for the new contract.
According to Bill Clark, Milton director of planning and community development, both the college and the town would prefer a longer-term deal.
“We want the long-term lease because, financially, it is the only way to make money on the rink,” said Clark.
To date, Curry has only lost money on the rink, which is the home ice of the men’s hockey team. The college’s contracts with the town stipulate that any profits Curry earns on Ulin must be returned to the town. In 2013, the college has already spent approximately $22,000 in repairs, while it has spent nearly $300,000 on the rink since 2010. The initial contract required Curry to spend at least $145,000 in the first year of the deal on “capital improvements, repairs, replacements and renovations,” and $20,000 in both years two and three.
According to Richard Sullivan, the chief financial officer at Curry, the school agreed to manage the rink because it wanted to be a good member of the community.
“We recognized it as an important asset for both Milton and Curry,” Sullivan said. “We saw it as an opportunity to be a good citizen in the community. We also wanted to help out in terms of improving the asset for the college. It also benefits the hockey team and student activities directly. ”
Among the improvements Curry has made to the state-owned rink are: new insulation, which keeps the radiant heat that is generated on the roof from going down to the ice; the addition of ice temperature sensors and controls, which keeps the ice at a constant temperature; installing a permafrost system under the rink, which controls the temperature of the ground water to make sure it doesn’t freeze and damage the slab; and new batteries in the Zamboni.
Other interior improvements include new rubber floor matting, new fire alarms, and new hockey nets. Improvements were also made to the common locker rooms.
These improvements helped reduce operational losses by 20 percent, said Sullivan, who noted that all of the money Curry has put into Ulin has come from the college’s general fund, as opposed to loans or a special gift from alumni. In 2010 Curry was loosing approximately $121,000 on the rink, mainly due to energy costs. Last year, the college lost just $26,000 on the rink, Sullivan reported. In addition, the town is in talks with the state to increase the rates charged for ice rental times. Per the town’s contract with the state, rates are required to stay at 2009 levels.
“We want to get the rink so it is self-sustaining, with expenses and excessive revenues sufficient to allow continuous improvements to the rink,” Sullivan said.
The town is currently in negotiations with the state for a 25-year lease of Ulin that would begin April 2015. According to Sullivan, Curry will wait until its current contract is up before deciding on a long-term deal.
“We want to be able to make an informed decision,” Sullivan said. “Until we know what they (the town) want, we will see what develops and respond accordingly.”