Smooth skating – Despite late start to season, Driscoll says rink doing very well this year

The temporary repairs that were made to Larsen Rink during the rink’s off-season in the summer and early fall seem to be working well, as hockey teams, leagues and skaters stream back to the local ice skating rink on Pauline Street.

“We opened a month later, because of the repair work to the center ice area, but so far the temporary repair job is working out very well and we we’ve been seeing a lot of people use the rink,” said Parks and Recreation Director Sean Driscoll, who oversees the operation and management of the rink.

“The teams that are getting the most use of the rink are the middle school and high school hockey teams and of course, Winthrop Youth Hockey is probably our number one tenant in terms of sheer number of kids that use the ice, and they are at full capacity, which is good for us,” said Driscoll. “We are also doing a number of things to promote the use of the ice at other times and other groups that have usually used our ice are starting to come back, including the Winthrop Skating Association.”

According to Driscoll, the Marblehead High School has been using the rink occasionally to give their girls hockey team a place to practice and play some games, and Bishop Fenwick High School has been using the rink every Sunday since December for their junior varsity squad. Additionally, the annual Miracle On Ice Tournament for Winthrop Youth Hockey was held at the rink and was a great success again.

“We are also trying to get some of the league teams to come back to the rink, and we are going to be hosting the District Sectionals for the Youth Hockey Tournament at Larsen Rink,” said Driscoll. “We’ve already brought in Mystic Valley Girls 13 and under and 12 and under teams, they are coming to the rink twice a week right now.”

Other promotional ideas include a family skate night that will begin on Saturday nights in February, with music, food and open skating for all ages, and the excel Charter Academy of east Boston has been using the rink to run its skating program on Friday afternoons.

“For next year and the year after, our goal is to bring back more of the league teams that have used the rink before and we also are looking to develop a recreational league for men, maybe a 30 and over league for adult men,” said Driscoll.

In the meantime, Driscoll said he is confident and cautiously optimistic that the rink will be able to support for itself this year, despite the loss of the first month of the season.

“We’ve been busy, but it’s hard to say right now that we are in the black or not, because we don’t know for sure what expenses or maintenance may be needed this second half of the season and we’re not totally sure when the rink will close for the season. We’d like to keep it open as long as possible, but that depends on how well we do on the bookings for the last four to six weeks of the season.”

Driscoll noted that energy costs for the rink are down slightly this year, because the temporary repair to the rink bed moved the chiller pipes closer to the ice surface, so it takes less energy to freeze the rink than in years past. At the same time, the later open really cut into the rink’s anticipated revenues, a situation he hopes to avoid next year.

“The goal for next year will be to close the rink down on time, and then get started on the permanent repair right away, so that we don’t lose a month at the beginning of next season,” said Driscoll. “Unfortunately, there is still pending litigation against the company that installed the rink surface a few years ago, so we’re trying right now to get that situation resolved as quickly as possible, so that we can just move forward.”

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