BREWER, Maine — A couple who have decided to purchase the financially strapped Penobscot Ice Arena on Acme Road say they know all about the facility’s problems and bad reputation.
“I know,” said George Bishop, who along with his wife, Linda, are scheduled to purchase the rink from Roger Theriault, owner of Delta Hockey LLC, for an undisclosed amount 2 p.m. Friday. “I’ve coached over there for years, so I know the condition and the problems with the rink.”
As a coach, Bishop has traveled all over the state and heard from other teams that “nobody has wanted to come to the rink,” he said. “It’s cold. There is no food, no heat — no nothing.”
The Bishops, who own Penobscot Cleaning Services Inc. in Brewer and Trenton, have a daughter who plays in the area’s first girls hockey team for those age 12 and under. They have a plan to significantly improve the ice arena that was built in the mid-1990s and opened as the TJ Ryan Center.
“The building is in disrepair and has been for a long time,” said Bishop, who plays for two men’s league teams at the rink. “We’re going to make improvements with the chiller plant, ice resurfacing, extensive cleaning, painting and remodeling and upgrading some utility systems.”
Approved during a special City Council meeting Thursday morning, the amended lease agreement between the city and the Bishops contains nine improvements required in the first year.
Part of the new lease agreement for the ice rink also means the approximately $80,000 in back taxes and sewer bills owed by Theriault will also be paid, City Manager Steve Bost said Thursday. The annual lease of the city parking lot next to the ice rink is for around $6,740, he said.
“As part of the agreement to make significant improvements to the facility, we have set aside the payments they would normally make,” Bost said.
The parking lot lease payment for this year will be forgiven entirely, and the lease payment for next year will be reduced to 50 percent with the understanding that the money will be used to improve the facility used by Brewer High School and Hampden Academy hockey teams, and Brewer Youth Hockey, Bost said.
The Brewer arena is one of only three ice rinks in the area. Sawyer Arena in Bangor and the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine are the other two.
Since hockey season is just beginning, Bishop said the rink will remain open. The renovations will start with addressing “the immediate cleaning and sanitation concerns,” he said.
The nine improvements listed in the council order are just the beginning, Bishop said.
“Basically, that is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Those are the immediate needs. I need to stress it’s not going to happen overnight — 17 years of neglect takes a while to fix.”
In other business, the city council also approved placing a $2.7 million interest-free school bond referendum on the ballot for Nov. 5 for improvements at Brewer High School that add handicap bathrooms, a new gym floor, communication improvements and creating an “art suite” for the art department.