Cape Elizabeth ice rink group closes in on goal
A group of volunteers advocating for a four-season ice rink in Cape Elizabeth has made progress, from increasing community support for the project to finding a potential donor to fund it.
The non-profit Cape Community Arena Group informed the city council on Monday of its efforts to build an outdoor arena next to the public works building, next to Gull Crest Fields.
The group is entering the permitting process and hope to stick to their schedule of having Cape Town residents skating at the new facility next winter. This, however, depends on the city’s approval process.
“We need to develop a facility that will work for the city,” council chairman Jeremy Gabrielson said. “Part of that is making sure we have good financial plans in place for the arena so we understand what costs are associated with it.”
Julie Furt, president of the arena group, said she doesn’t think the arena’s estimated cost of $5 million will be an issue.
“We have identified a potential lead donor who could potentially donate up to the entire total cost of the project,” Furt said. “We still plan to reach out to the wider community for some fundraising efforts. It will take money to get us through things like the planning process to get that anchor donor.
She declined to name the potential donor.
The city could not only break even in the arena, but could also turn a profit, she said.
“The budget associated with operating a facility like this once it’s built isn’t huge,” Furt said. “If the city wanted to make a profit out of it… that wouldn’t be a problem. We are very confident in that.
There is a shortage of ice available in the area, she said, and ice time is bought up “extremely quickly”.
“There are limited assets in town,” said Chris Hooper, group board member and treasurer. “Our high school hockey teams are currently scrambling to find access to ice time.”
Currently, the Cape Elizabeth hockey teams play their home games at the Troubh Ice Arena in Portland.
Plans call for the opening of three sides of the Cape Town arena. The roof would slope over the rink, with spectator seating below the highest part.
Attached to the arena would be an amenities building, which would include warm-up, viewing and skate rental areas, a practice room and restrooms.
While the project initially focused on an ice rink, the group is now envisioning an arena that could have a range of uses.
“There’s no kind of all-purpose facility like this,” Hooper said. “A facility for the city to host sporting events or entertainment events is simply something that does not exist in the city today.”
In a survey conducted by the group, 45% of 262 respondents said being interested in a facility that could host concerts, such as Portland Symphony, is of interest while over 40% said a family ice skate should be prioritized.
Other respondents said they would like to see an arena used for hockey, soccer, lacrosse, yoga and youth fitness classes.
The group organized several information sessions that helped residents who were unaware of the project to get on board.
“We had a number of people who had never heard of the project who were very engaged and very positive,” Furt said.
She highlighted the group’s success in spearheading the installation of an outdoor skating rink by the town hall in 2020.
“We raised about $25,000 in a very short time and built the rink that’s behind City Hall,” Furt said. “This year it is city owned and run by the city with the help of our volunteers.”
Gabrielson said he had a favorable view of the rink project.
“I think it’s really positive that we have this group of citizens who have taken it upon themselves,” he said. “Personally, I think it looks like a great project.”
The organization is expected to meet with the board again in February.
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