City still debating plans for rink, future | New
WILMINGTON – More than 30 parents and members of the Wilmington Youth Hockey community attended the Wilmington Rink and Recreation Facilities Committee meeting last Monday night to show their support around a potential rink facility in Wilmington.
The committee’s main topic of discussion was an update after several conversations with Ristuccia Memorial Arena owner Richard Gallant. Gallant purchased Ristuccia Rink in 2019.
Rink committee chairman Mark DiGiovanni shared that the committee typically checks in with Gallant every year to see if he’s open to working with the city. Over the past few months, he’s shown interest in DiGiovanni to discuss the rink with them.
DiGiovanni expressed some of the ideas from an April meeting with Gallant, City Manager Jeff Hull, Board Member Kevin Caira and himself, where they explored the city’s interest in a possible second layer. of ice. During this meeting, Gallant also mentioned that he would review the property, the current rink and the feasibility of a second rink.
After the committee expressed interest, Gallant continued this review and requested another meeting in July.
At the July meeting, the group walked through the existing space and reviewed the current concept plans. DiGiovanni described how the tour went through the lobby, snack bar area, offices, and TV interview rooms, and at that time they reviewed the concept drawing. After that, they toured the facility, including the locker rooms, the old equipment storage area, the old Bruins locker room, the skate sharpening area, the physical therapy tub, the training room, the existing gymnasium and the old track and equipment containers. outside.
DiGiovanni added that the presentation for guests at the reunion showed two separate entries. The existing rink would be renovated and there would be a new rink towards the front of the building connected in a T. The new rink would not have as many seats, but there would be a balcony added.
Gallant’s current concept called for the new rink for smaller teams and the existing rink for high school games or other major events. He suggested that the market rate for linen rentals would remain about the same as the market rate charged to the city currently.
Hull shared with the committee that he detailed to Gallant part of the process moving forward with his plans, including providing site plans to the Planning Board, finding the Director of Planning and Conservation and consideration of items such as stormwater management and other per-legal requirements.
Then there would be Fire Department and Conservation Commission concerns to consider before the Community Development Technical Review Team reviews the plans.
DiGiovanni pointed out that Gallant seemed interested in working with the city to have the new rink by the 2023-24 hockey season, even hearing about the city’s approval process.
However, committee members shared a desire to see their separate plans move forward. Caira reminded residents that they had narrowed down their site selections to the Whitfield site, the Salem Street site, the Town Hall site and the recycling site near the Woburn line.
“That doesn’t preclude our purpose of finding a location or initiating a request for information,” he said.
Caira suggested they continue with both ideas open and see how it goes.
DiGiovanni then said the city required a promise of ice time preference if it went along with Gallant’s plan. He saw that Gallant was professional, genuine and eager to work with them, and that it could be an olive branch for the town.
“We all want the program to run well, grow and succeed,” he said.
Their top priority with any rink would be to hold as much ice time as possible in order to meet the needs of the Wilmington Youth Hockey program and the girls’ and boys’ hockey programs in high school.
Robert Peterson Jr., another committee member, pointed out that Gallant surely knows the site better than the city, but also that it seems like a tight fit for two rinks and enough parking.
“[Gallant] probably knows what he’s up against,” he continued.
He suggested that special permits might be needed to operate this site. As for the other venues in mind, he also didn’t see two rinks suitable for one of them.
Committee member Steven Doherty acknowledged the people in the audience who have been patient with the WYH program, which over the past three years has had to rent ice at five different rinks, including a very limited time at Ristuccia. .
In their current time, they mostly get leftover ice, putting 6-year-olds on the ice until 9 p.m. and 12-year-olds until 10 p.m. He described the program as desperate and struggling to keep hockey players whose parents are dissatisfied. with ice time.
The committee then opened a space for public comments.
Mike Newhouse shared his son’s experience at WYH, where until he was 16 he never played Ristuccia. He recalled the situation that arose with the rink’s former owner who had promised in writing to transfer title to the rink to Wilmington and then sell it to Gallant instead. He urged the committee to move forward with the development of a separate rink and perhaps use Ristuccia as a temporary solution.
Another resident spoke of the sense of community that was built with the Learn to Play program and then torn apart when parents are upset about how 6-year-olds are falling behind on the ice.
“We’ve had a pretty bad track record for this rink…I just don’t see that being a benefit to the community,” he said. “The only incentive with [Ristuccia’s proposal] is that we can do it in a year.
Other residents seemed to favor a situation where Wilmington would have some control over the business as a guarantee of ice time.
A commentator raised the fact that the committee had not made much progress in building an ice rink, as they were still in the same location as about three years ago.
The committee in turn asked Hull when he thought his office might have the RFI ready. Hull offered a timeline after the special town meeting in November. Instead, the committee thought of using the Wellesley Ice Arena RFI as an example and starting to write parts of the RFI themselves.
Committee member Dan Ardito spoke in favor of moving forward with Gallant.
“He’s not just here to make money,” he said. “He talked about a memorandum of understanding to give the city the ice it needs.”
He wondered how the city could go ahead with its own plan without chaining Gallant. A resident asked in response how having too many ice patches could harm the city.
Caira responded that the committee should signal that the city is keeping its options open. They offered to indicate a willingness to work with Gallant in the short term and to recognize that he would still have the opportunity to do other business later if he went ahead.