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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
George Barnes, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

A large crowd is expected to rally Saturday outside the Wallace Civic Center's Landry Arena, but it is not a protest as much as an attempt to draw attention to efforts to keep the skating rink open.

The arena is one of two rinks at Wallace, and users are concerned that Fitchburg State University may close it.

Eric Short, a member of the Save the Landry Association, said 300 to 400 children and their parents are expected to be at the arena Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to encourage the university to work with the teams and clubs that use it to keep the facility open. He said there has been no final determination, but talks with university officials have not been encouraging.

"In February they had a meeting with all the users and it was doom and gloom," he said. "It was not very positive. All the information was grim."

Mr. Short said the arena needs significant improvements. He said that since the university leased the facility in 2007, the Civic Center's Gaetz Arena has seen significant renovations, but not much has been done with the Landry Arena.

Mr. Short and the users are hoping the university will work with them to find ways both to get the arena to earn a profit and to raise money to make repairs.

The Save the Landry Association has drawn up a four-page proposal for the university outlining what can be done to increase ice rental and what the users, which include public school teams and local hockey and skating teams and clubs, can do to raise money toward renovations.

Mr. Short said his group already has got commitments of 253 hours of extra ice rental time from teams using the arena and hopes to get other clubs to sign up to use it.

He said interest in hockey is growing and both arenas are needed.

He said the users are also willing to donate $20 more for every hour rented to help pay for the renovations, but they need the university to agree to keep the arena open.

"We understand repairs are needed, but we need to find a way to fix this," Mr. Short said. "We want to work with the university. There needs to be a partnership."

Matthew Bruun, a college spokesman, said arena finances are being analyzed.

"We have met with major stakeholder groups to discuss the situation and possible courses of action," he said.

"We are mindful of the critical role the Wallace Civic Center plays in community life, both for the campus and the public at large."

Mr. Bruun said the university's intention throughout the review has been to determine the best plan to ensure the long-term health of the complex.

"We are continuing to evaluate the feedback from user groups about Landry Arena and anticipate final recommendations being made in the coming weeks," he said.

 

March 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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