The puck is in the selectmen’s hands as they decide whether Curry College or a new nonprofit group should manage the Max Ulin Skating Rink for the town.
Curry College and the Ulin Rink Management Corp., which formed this summer, are the only groups competing for the management contract, according to Town Administrator Kevin Mearn.
The state has owned and run the rink for decades — a losing venture in recent years — but this summer awarded Milton a free, five-year permit for its operation. The town took the permit, even though it wanted a longer lease agreement and doesn’t have the ability or interest in managing the operation itself, Mearn said.
Enter the two competitors, who each submitted more than 60 pages of material outlining their qualifications to take over the rink, Mearn said.
The organizers of the new nonprofit had hoped to include Curry College in their group as one of several organizations that use the facility, said a spokesman, Kevin Keating. But the college declined, he said.
Milton Youth Hockey and Milton High School signed on to work “in a cooperative effort’’ with the new corpora tion, he said. Numerous other skating groups — from Norwood and Westwood youth hockey leagues, to the Stinky Socks men’s teams and a group promoting hockey for inner city kids — pledged support, he said.
“Part of our goal was to get all the user groups onboard so we could all work together,’’ Keating said. “We wanted to make a management plan that was agreeable to everybody. We wanted unity.’’
The group also wanted to make sure ice time was preserved for the public, youth hockey, and Milton High School, he said.
And there was also concern within the hockey community that Curry College might expand its hockey program and gobble up the coveted late afternoon, early evening, and weekend ice times. The “Colonels’’ have a locker at the Ulin, the home rink for the men’s hockey team.
“We can see the writing on the wall if Curry gets’’ control, said Bill Naumann, president of the Norwood Nugget Youth Hockey program, which skates at Ulin. “That building was built with taxpayers’ dollars, and to have a college that pays no taxes all of a sudden gain control of that rink [would be] an absolute disservice to the taxpayers of the state.’’
Keating, an active Curry College alumnus, said his concerns are not directed at the college specifically, but at any private organization that wants to control the rink. “The only way to safely feel secure that the rink will maintain its affordability and availability for youth hockey and high school hockey is by having a nonprofit community group make sure that happens,’’ he said.
Tim Kernan, president of the nonprofit, stressed that the group is not “anti-Curry.’’ “That’s as far from the truth as you can get,’’ he said. “Curry has a wonderful hockey team, and the kids in town love to go down and see that classy, hard-fought game by these college kids. It’s a great thing to have in town.’’
Vinnie Eruzione, Curry’s athletic director — and brother of gold medal Olympic hockey player Mike Eruzione — could not be reached for comment.
But Curry spokeswoman Fran Jackson said the college submitted its own management proposal because “we believe we’d do a good job of operating the rink and providing that service to the town, and all the youth hockey programs, and all the stakeholders.’’
She said Curry has no plans to start a women’s or intramural hockey program.
For its part, the Ulin Rink Management Corp. wants to operate the rink “and bring it up to the next level’’ with more daytime programs for seniors and children and more opportunities for volunteers, Keating said.
The group estimates it will cost about $422,000 to run the rink the first year, and that an investment of $150,000 in energy improvements could significantly lower costs.
“Our mind-set is we think we can deliver a quality program to the town of Milton, and probably better than anyone else can,’’ said Kernan, a 59-year-old businessman who occasionally skates at night, but isn’t involved with hockey.
“This isn’t a bunch of hockey dads,’’ Keating said. “This is a group of very influential and educated people who know how to operate a facility.’’
Mearn said the proposals from both Curry and the nonprofit indicated they would keep the same ice times for groups that used the rink last year, with hourly prices set by the state. “Years going forward, [that] is negotiable,’’ he said.
The town is committed to awarding a management contract for the rink in time for it to open on Sept. 15, Mearn said. Selectmen planned to discuss the matter in executive session this week, he said.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.