The Penobscot Ice Arena in Brewer is on the market again.
John Duff, who entered into a lease-to-purchase agreement a year ago, decided at the last moment against buying the facility.
Owner Roger Theriault of Delta Hockey said he learned of the decision two hours before he and Duff were to sign the papers that would turn the rink over to Duff for $1.15 million. That was at the end of April.
“We just didn’t come to an agreement. I had the option [to back out] and I took that option. It wasn’t in my best interest,” said Duff, who wouldn’t elaborate.
Theriault praised the work Duff, Duff’s family and the rink crew put into the facility.
“The difference was like night and day,” said Theriault. “He did a great job. They fixed it up beautifully. They made a lot of improvements.”
Theriault said among the list of improvements was the moving of the boards several inches to take care of the edges of the ice surface where the ice was dangerously thin at times; a new concession area, renovated office space and a much cleaner facility.
“It was an interesting year,” said Duff. “I love hockey and I wanted the kids to have a great place to skate. I owe a lot to my family. They sacrificed a lot to get the rink where it is.”
He also credited workers Mike Kane, who monitors the ice, along with Brian McDonald and Nick Beaulieu for their stellar contributions.
“Everybody worked hard on the rink,” said Duff.
Theriault said the rink was recently appraised at $1.25 million and he is looking for a buyer.
“We’re going to operate it the way we always have,” said Theriault, who lives in Greene and works as a funeral director in Lewiston. “We’re going to operate it until we sell it. I don’t have a particular timetable.”
Theriault said he won’t lease it again unless the people agree, in writing, to buy it after the lease expires.
“I don’t want to do another lease. I’ve done it two or three times now and when the deals fall through, it’s devastating,” said Theriault. “It really creates problems.”
The rink has been financially troubled in the past and has been close to foreclosure.
Lou Janicki and wife Caryle built the facility known as H.O. Bouchard Arena in 1996 and they owned it until 2001 when Theriault and Delta Hockey bought it and assumed nearly $900,000 in debt from mortgage holder Bangor Savings Bank.
The name of the facility had been changed to the T.J. Ryan Center.
Theriault, who used to own and run the Central Maine Civic Center (now The Colisee) in Lewiston, said he will be more involved in the rink, coming up “at least once if not twice a week” until it is sold.
He said he has had discussions with a Canadian group that has inquired about it but the discussions are just in the “preliminary stages.”
Theriault said he hopes any prospective buyers will retain it as a rink but he admitted that it “could also be sold as real estate” and turned into something else.
“I just want the rink to survive,” said Duff. “I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.”
There will be summer ice at the facility.