To the Editor:
Your opening words in the frontpage article in the July 3 & 4 weekender edition, regarding the closure of Fenton Chester Arena, hurts in the hearts of the founding fathers and numerous other volunteers, I am sure.
If you had any understanding of the sacrifice and dedication of so many area individuals you would not have started your article with such derogatory wording. Quote; Bare-bones. No frills. Rough around the edges. Fenton Chester Arena is a back- to- basics facility. A place with few amenities and fewer luxuries. It’s a tin roof over a sheet of ice, dimly lit and colder than hell in the winter.
A little history:
Before Lyndon Area Youth Hockey, St. J Academy hockey, NEK Skating club and many other recreational opportunities in the Kingdom, the Lyndon Institute hockey program called Norwich University and Stanstead Que. HOME ice. There were no frills in the old Norwich Taylor Arena that collapsed under the weight of snow on the roof and high school teams dressed in a 90degree heated boiler room. The old Stanstead Arena refrigeration pipe system ran through a sand floor which created an uneven, wavy ice surface and chain link fence protected spectators from stray pucks.
Mr. Chester headed up an effort to obtain funding for a facility in Lyndonville. Along with three other LI hockey parents and myself a building committee was formed. After doing extensive research a proposal was presented to the Lyndon Select Board and an application was submitted to the US Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR). The grant for the original plan was approved for a much larger, more luxurious facility. However, do to three very selfish individuals in town that took the proposal to court during the mid 1970’s energy crisis the original blueprint had to be scaled down to adapt to the funding. The BOR funded 85% and the town was responsible for 15%. The building committee, later becoming the LYNDON AREA SPORTS ASSOCIATION (LASA), obtained over 100 signed pledges to cover the 15% town share if anything should ever happen to close FCA before the grant was paid. In the history of FCA not one penny of tax payer money went into the facility thanks to the tireless effort of hundreds of volunteers and dedicated management of LASA. LASA volunteers managed the arena successfully for 37years for the Town of Lyndon until Lyndon Institute entered into a five year agreement with the Select Board.
Since opening, LASA with its volunteer staff and frugal management has obtained new dasher boards, ceiling insulation, Efficiency VT overhead lighting (called dimly lit by CR Sports), made snack bar improvements, replaced a compressor, operated a pro shop that provided rental skates and low cost rental hockey equipment to area youth. All at no cost to taxpayers. LASA always maintained the least expensive ice rental fees compared to those more luxurious, greater frills arenas, built years later than FCA. If one were to research some of these other more luxurious arenas you may find, as I have, all over the US and Canada no pro shop, snack bar etc. etc. The funding for these community facilities is tax payer funded thru municipal recreation departments such as the Barre BOR and Hartford BOR or privately owned.
With that being said, this tin roof over a sheet of ice provided LI, St. J. Academy, LAHA, NEKSC, Six men’s league teams, Littleton Youth Hockey, Lyndon State College hockey, public skaters, winter carnival events, craft shows, home shows, music concerts, indoor athletic practices, graduations and much more.
The FCA founding fathers, The LASA Board, the hundreds of volunteers, their children and their children’s children have seen many years of enjoyment that this bare-bones, no frills, rough around the edges building has given to three generations of locals, out of towners and out of staters that have entered that dimly lit building. It may be colder than hell in the winter but true hockey players and serious skaters know you can’t skate on water. Also, I believe the scriptures say, if you get to hell it’s not going to be very COLD there!
FCA founding member
LAYHA founding member
LASA founding member