January 18, 2018
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Nearly 100-year-old local ice skating rink won’t open this winter

By Tammy Wells, Journal Tribune
Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune | BDN
Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune | BDN
West Brook Skating Rink in Biddeford won't open this season, but volunteers are looking ahead to opening for the 2018-19 season.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — West Brook Skating Rink will not open this skating season, but those involved with the rink say they’re looking to opening again next year — and celebrate its centennial.

“I am very disappointed that we were unable to open the rink,” said Dave Gagnon, president, Friends of West Brook Skating Rink in a news release. “The rink depends on an army of volunteers to get it up and running and maintained throughout the season, and we simply were unable to accomplish everything we needed to do before the cold weather set in.”

Early in December, Friends of West Brook Skating Rink asked the public’s help in preparing the rink for opening day, but Gagnon said the early snow and cold weather inhibited the rink’s volunteers from completing all improvements that were needed.

About a dozen people turned out to help mow, chop and rake cattails from the rink area at West Brook — some more than six feet high — to try and get the rink in shape during a Saturday in December. They wanted to be able to lace up their skates and glide across the ice just as Biddeford folks have been doing at West Brook Skating Rink for nearly 100 years.

“We will resume our efforts as soon as the snow and ice thaws in the spring,” said Gagnon. “With any luck, we will continue to have support from the greater Biddeford community and will have the rink in better shape for its 100 year anniversary.”

The rink opened in 1921. The walls of the concession stand and skate rental shop — a converted house that could also use some work, volunteers say — show old photos and old newspaper clippings of past skaters and winning hockey teams, like the 1933 West Brook Athletic Club Hockey Team.

The Friends of West Brook Skating Rink in December had approached Mayor Alan Casavant to see if there was anything the city could to do assist this year — the city owns the property.

Casavant on Tuesday said there had been no money budgeted for the rink, the council had not discussed the matter and the Friends had not made a presentation to them.

He said it is his understanding that there are structural issues with the dam and that some permits the city had helped attain to make repairs about four years ago had expired and must be sought again before work can be done.

As to whether the city can help in the future, Casavant said it depends on costs and other factors.

“It is really difficult to look at future budgeting because there are so many pressing needs,” said Casavant. “It depends on the cost, what it would take, and with one rink in the city already … if the cost is going to be expensive, to expend a lot of money for that for a number of days in a year creates a problem.”

Friends of West Brook Skating Rink is looking to form a 501 (c)(3) to help raise funds for the rink’s needed improvements. Volunteers will also turn to the community again in the spring and summer months for help with clean up and construction at the rink, Gagnon said in a statement.

Gagnon said West Brook Skating Rink will celebrate its centennial year during the 2018 – 2019 season.

“The rink is a community gem and we plan to keep it alive for more generations to enjoy,” said Gagnon. “I understand many will be disappointed with our decision, but I can assure you we are working hard to build a better rink. We need volunteers and I hope many will be willing to lend us a hand in the new year.”

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