Bringing Recreation To The Rink

ST. JOHNSBURY-A recreational group is hoping their big idea to pull people into the St. Johnsbury area will push more economic development in the future. 

Three Rivers Ice and Recreational Group has decided to purpose their goal for year 2022, to develop a recreational ice rink for the town of Saint Johnsbury. Scott Beck, who is taking the lead to get this plan pushed, is very thankful for the group of people that he has been working with to get his plan running.

"The group of people that have been my sound throughout this thing, we want to do well in our community, we are all business owners. We are all passionate about recreation, we understand that not only is it a means for a society to be healthy, but also the business side of it attracts people," Beck goes on to say.

He says that all of his partners in the project are very dedicated, and interested in recreation because it brings people to the area. Beck explains that this is the overall goal, Beck sees the potential in what this area has to offer. There are high hopes that this project could be the beginning of more economic development.

"We kind of circled around this idea of, well what if we had this really awesome recreation facility. Ice and indoor track, and you know, would people from quite a distance, would they come to St. Johnsbury? We had a couple feasibility studies done to check out that theory, and the answer was yes," Beck explains.

Beck wants to make it known that the idea to open an Ice Rink in St. Johnsbury has nothing to do with the possibility of Fenton W. Chester Ice Arena closing its doors. Beck says that they certainly have had lots of conversations with the management at Fenton Chester. But like Beck has explained before, the overall idea was to attract people to St. Johnsbury, not to fill in for Fenton Chester.

"What we do has nothing to do with them. If we build a two sheet ice rink, and Fenton Chester decides to stay open, we think that this area, and the people that would come to this area, could support three sheets of ice."

Beck explains that if Fenton Chester Arena does close down, the group would certainly be willing to capture that demand from other towns. That includes throwing on events for the community to participate in, serving the hockey teams that use the Fenton Chester Arena, or letting community members use the space, and student use.

The Three Rivers Recreational group is planning to put the ice rink on Bay Street, in downtown St. Johnsbury. The Property, owned by Bill Brink, and Bruce Ralston, has some contamination issues. The group's first priority is to get a brownfield study done to ensure that the property is safe to use.

Beck explains that this issue needs to be addressed before the group starts talking to big investors, because no one wants to build an ice rink on contaminated soil.

"We are working to get that solved, doesn't mean it's easy, doesn't mean it's quick, but it's solvable," Beck goes on to explain.

Beck says that he is very hopeful that there will be grant support to cover that cost for the brownfield study. The group is still waiting on that 30 day approval for the study at this point in time. Once the group knows what's in the soil, and what is going to go on that site, then they will get approval, and direction to make the plan happen.

The next step is to start working with an architectural firm that understands the hockey business. They hope that there will be an architectural mechanical study done to start planning and drawing of the project.

"That would include drawings, a business plan proforma, an energy assessment, a whole business plan that went with it," Beck said.

The group plans to have both priorities done by early summer of 2021. Then the group will focus on going to investors and lenders, to share their vision, and push the plan forward. The group knows how much the costs will be and fully anticipate that the plan is possible, as well as knowing those numbers for net income.

The fundraising that has gone into the project so far has come from the Town Economic Development Office, St. Johnsbury Development Corporation, as well as receiving some grants from the NVDA, as well as a few dollars out of Becks Pocket.

Their next fundraising effort is to raise two hundred fifty thousand dollars to pay to provide all information for potential investors, whether to invest in the project.

"That money could come in the form of grants, it could come in the form of investment, it could come in the form of both, we're not really sure. It probably is likely that it will be both," Beck goes on to explain.

Assuming that the United States are still in the Covid-19 crisis by 2022, Beck knows that hockey rinks are a prime suspect of spreading the disease, and wants to build the rink in a way where everyone is safe from the virus.

"As this facility is designed, from the ground up, we are going to be able to accommodate all those types of things. I don't know if you've been to a hockey rink before, really small player boxes, everyone shoulder to shoulder, and really tiny locker rooms, and without good ventilation. This I think is a great opportunity to design a facility that takes all that into account."

Beck is confident in moving forward with this plan, and is very proud of the group for all they have accomplished in such a short time.

"I think we have done a great job of maintaining a shared vision throughout, once we settled on the vision, we've been rock solid on that, we haven't wavered at all, everyone is committed," Beck shares with confidence.