EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 19, 2013

Pelham Ice Garden won't open as organizers reassess long-term plans

Pelham Ice Garden takes a break, won't open this season

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — The Pelham Ice Garden won’t open this season for the first time in six years.

Board members recently announced their decision on the outdoor rink’s website.

President and founder Chris Mader, in a separate posting on the town’s electronic message board, blamed lack of volunteer help, weather conditions, the ice rink’s location and funding.

“Once everyone realized the massive effort it takes to maintain an outdoor ice rink in Southern New Hampshire, naturally, volunteer participation began to wane over the past four seasons,” organizers said in their announcement.

The group’s organizers, including Mader and Lance Ouellette, said their intent is to take a year off to reassess their plan, finances, number of volunteers and other logistics needed to build and operate a safe rink.

“I’m conflicted,” Mader said yesterday. “It’s sad and it’s frustrating that people who enjoy skating won’t have the rink this year.”

An increase in Mader’s responsibilities at work have coincided with decreased participation by volunteers.

“There have been two or three people maintaining the rink,” Mader said. “It was almost a second job.”

The rink’s future location will be a key consideration.

“The location in Lyons Park is the biggest problem,” town recreation director Brian Johnson said. “It sits in the sun all day. Even when it’s 20 degrees out, the ice is melting.”

Organizers acknowledged the problem in their announcement, saying the rink had only 10 official open skating days in the winters of 2012 and 2013.

Johnson said some games for an adult outdoor hockey league had to be moved to the indoor rink in Salem because of poor conditions.

What’s needed is a shady location with a water source nearby, Johnson said.

A concrete pad also would help, he said.

Organizers said the liner needs to be replaced. That would cost about $2,000 and the organization is $600 short of funding.

Rep. Charlene Takesian, R-Pelham, one of the leaders of the Pelham Community Spirit civic group, has encouraged rink volunteers to consider siting it near the village green between the library and fire station.

Johnson is hoping volunteers won’t be discouraged.

“We’re going to work together to get the rink back up next year,” Johnson said.

The rink always was popular with residents, he said.

“I’d come in at quarter to eight in the morning and people would be skating on it,” Johnson said.

Kids would be there after school, too.

“Parents and grandparents would bring their kids to the rink on weekend mornings,” organizers said in their announcement. “And many, many children slipped on their first pair of skates in the Pelham Ice Garden.”

Police and firefighters played a charity game there.

Mader said it was always understood the rink would be a volunteer effort, not something run by the town.

He said he is hoping new people will step forward and volunteer to get the rink up and running for the future.

Mader said he would be willing to train, mentor or work with someone willing to take on the program.