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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
MARLBORO - The New England Sports Center will become one of the largest indoor ice arenas in North America when construction crews put the finishing touches on an 88,830-square-foot expansion late this summer.
Constructed on Donald Lynch Boulevard in 1994 with four rinks, the center added a fifth rink in 2005 and a sixth in 2010. The expansion will add two rinks and 110 parking spaces at the complex, which also features a pro shop, arcade and restaurant, said General Manager Wes Tuttle.
After a winter hiatus, construction crews returned to the site a few weeks ago, erected the steel frame of the building and are installing the interior walls. Crews were unable to work over the winter because the ground froze and the tie rods used to brace steel columns could not be put into the ground, said Tuttle.
"As soon as the weather broke, the steelworkers were right on the job," he said.
Workers cleared trees from the 23 acres where the rinks and parking lot will be located, installed footings, plumbing and the foundation before the winter weather hit, according to Tuttle.
Tuttle initially hoped the new rinks would open late this spring, however, the weather delayed construction, pushing the opening until the end of August.
"We're going full steam ahead," he said. "We should have a building pretty quick."
Tuttle said only a few ice arenas in North America have eight rinks.
The expansion will likely increase business by 25 percent and provide additional opportunities, such as allowing more teams to play, the addition of a curling club and attracting bigger national and global hockey tournaments.
The facility will host the USA Girls National Championships next year, in part, due to the expansion, Tuttle said.
"We've got eight rinks all in one location," he said. "It's going to be a pretty unique tournament."
Tuttle said the tournament will attract thousands of players from across the country and be a boon to the city's hotels and restaurants. He estimated between 6,500 and 7,000 hotel rooms will be reserved during the tournament.
Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Susanne Morreale-Leeber last year estimated the center is responsible for the rental of about 30,000 hotel rooms each year.
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