St. J Ice Rink Facility Plans Moving Underground

Property owned by Bill Brink, foreground, and Bruce Ralston is being considered as a site for a four seasons recreational facility. (Aerial Photo by Dana Gray)

ST. JOHNSBURY — As people discuss the fate of Fenton Chester Ice Arena in Lyndon Center, the Three Rivers Ice And Recreation group announced a goal to have an indoor skating surface in St. Johnsbury by fall 2022.

Scott Beck, lead promoter of the proposed Three Rivers Ice And Recreation facility on Bay Street, said Thursday the project has a path forward that makes an estimated opening time worth shooting for, and that path goes underground.

On Monday, Three Rivers will be submitting an application for a brownfields study to determine the level of contamination in the soil.

“We’re at the point where we need to attract investment dollars or lending dollars and we don’t think there’s a realistic path to do that unless we can tell an investor or a lender what’s in the ground and what it’s going to cost to clean it up so that everybody is legally on solid ground,” he said.

He met via video conference last week with representatives of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Economic Development and the Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss the brownfields study. Also online for the discussion were Joe Kasprzak, St. Johnsbury’s assistant town manager and economic development director, and a representative from Northeastern Vermont Development Association.

“ACED is very excited about this project, and they’re obviously very excited that it could also mean the clean-up of a site that they’ve had their eyes on for a long, long time,” said Beck.

A brownfields mitigation project is done in two phases. The first phase is to identify how the site has been used over the years and determine what’s in the ground for environmental hazards. The second phase is doing the required mitigation of the soil. Beck said a phase one cost typically runs between $7,000 and $10,000. The cost of phase two, he said, could run between $35,000 and $65,000.

Beck said the good news about the scope of the mitigation is that the site’s proposed use is for a much lower exposure than if the proposal was for a residential project. This distinction, he said, could reduce the clean-up effort required.

The Three Rivers group is submitting the application as a potential purchaser of the property. Currently, the land on which the group hopes to build the four seasons sports complex is owned by Bruce Ralston and Bill Brink. Beck said both owners would need to sign off on the brownfields study and any subsequent soil mitigation.

Beck said he is hopeful there will be grant support to cover the cost of the brownfields effort, but if the total cost can’t be granted, the Three Rivers Group would look to investors or lenders.

Their next fundraising effort would be for $200,000 to pay Friar Architecture Inc., based in Farmington, Conn. to complete meticulous architectural plans necessary to provide all the details potential investors and lenders would need to base a decision on whether to invest in the project.

Beck said it is estimated that the facility proposed would cost between $25 million and $30 million. If built, it will feature two sheets of ice, an indoor track with turf infield, a dedicated turf field and a fitness center.

The uncertainty of Fenton Chester’s future does not factor into the efforts of the Three Rivers group, Beck said.

“I have had no conversations with Lyndon or Lyndon Institute or anybody about how my work on getting this facility might impact whatever they’re doing,” he said.

The timing of announcing an opening goal, Beck said, wasn’t based on the struggles of opening Fenton Chester; it had to do with the identifying the correct next step with a brownfields study and feeling confident in the ability to propose a project that can be funded and built.

“Our work has never been predicated on what Lyndon or Lyndon Institute may or may not be doing with Fenton Chester Arena,” Beck said. “We have never put out a goal for an opening date [until now] because we didn’t understand entirely the scope of the work that needed to be completed. We think now with our conversations with the architecture firm and the brownfields conversations that we’ve had, I feel confident in saying at this time that our goal is to open a facility for skating for the 2022 skating season.”

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