Private Thoughts – Although privatization provides food for thought, rink should remain ours

Town Councillor Jeanne Maggio’s suggestion that the town may want to look into the idea of privatizing Larsen Rink brought into focus the notion that there are pluses and minuses to everything in life. (For example, even going to jail has its positive side: no bills to pay, three square meals a day, no kids, dogs or spouses to deal with….)

Jeanne acknowledged from the outset that her idea would not be a popular one. Larsen Rink has been a gathering place for Winthrop High hockey fans for decades and we’re sure that the vast majority of residents are glad that the townspeople of 40 years ago made the decision to build a town skating rink.

Would Mike Eruzione have become a national sports hero without Larsen Rink in his hometown?. Would Winthrop High hockey coach Dale Dunbar have reached the professional ranks and  become a respected mentor to players seeking to elevate their game for college and the NHL? Would multi-sport champions like John Tiano, Chucky Sullivan, and Joe Giaquinto have reached the legendary status they did without a hockey rink in town? And would there even have been an unforgettable 1976 state championship WHS hockey season if the players had to travel to another town to play the game they loved so much as kids?

And last but not least, there are the countless Winthrop residents for whom having a rink in their hometown launched their ice hockey careers at the youth hockey level from where they went on to earn college scholarships, or in the very least, came to play a sport that proved so enjoyable and worthwhile throughout their youth.

On paper, it may look enticing to bring in a company that manages and operates several rinks. Admittedly, there were some problems related to the $1 million rink renovation project.  In addition, Larsen has not generated the maximum revenue that it could, but that is attributable to it not having been open for the summers while work was being done.

On the other hand, the privatization of Kasabuski Rink in Saugus didn’t work out well when various town groups didn’t get the ice time they wanted. Moreover, there is an undeniable feeling of pride among townspeople in knowing that Larsen Rink belongs fully to the town. We think most residents would agree that Larsen Rink has been a town treasure and has functioned well under the leadership of Parks and Recreation Department Director Sean Driscoll.

We realize that Jeanne was using the Council meeting as a sounding board for her  proposal to bring in a private company to manage the rink. But judging by the other councillors’ decision to drop the discussion, it looks like the rink will remain the town’s.

The bottom line is not always the real bottom line when you take into account the intangibles.  The benefits to a community from a public service of the sort that Larsen Rink provides cannot be measured solely in dollars and cents. We’re sure that the vast majority of residents are glad that Larsen will remain in our hands.

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