ELLSWORTH, Maine — A new nonprofit group is hoping that if it can raise $11 million, a new indoor ice rink will be built near the local high school in the next couple of years.
The initial concept for the rink, to be called Acadia Arena at Whitney Landing, calls for an indoor regulation-size sheet of ice, an outdoor rink, an indoor running track and other related amenities. The facility, which would be built on a large tract of land owned by the Whitney family, also could serve as a place for the public to access a network of trails on hundreds of acres of forested land northeast of the high school.
Harold “Hal” Mayhew, a Vermont architect who is involved with the project, said Monday that the arena likely would draw people from coastal areas near Ellsworth but would be designed to complement rather than compete with other athletic facilities in the area. Ellsworth Tennis Center on Eastward Lane has four indoor tennis courts, while the Downeast Family YMCA on State Street has an indoor pool and gymnasium.
Mayhew said that having designed other ice rinks — including Watson Arena and Bowdoin College — he has found that new rinks tend to contribute to activity at other established rinks. A new rink in an unserved community leads to the creation of local teams, which then travel to other rinks in the area for competitions or other events, he said. The farthest people generally are willing to travel to visit an ice rink on a regular basis is about 45 minutes to an hour, he added.
“What normally happens is not what you would expect,” Mayhew said of creating more skating venues in a particular region. “This will benefit all of [the existing rinks].”
He said the facility as envisioned would have a little more than 50,000 square feet of finished space and seating capacity for about 360 people. Other features would include a skate shop, food concessions, weight and exercise machines and fitness instruction space for martial arts or aerobics classes.
The outdoor rink, Mayhew said, would not be reserved for programs and could be used by anyone at anytime. He said that, to counteract what can be fickle winter weather along Maine’s coast, the outdoor rink would be cooled through a subsurface refrigeration system.
“The weather isn’t getting any colder,” he said, referring to global warming patterns. “To have dependable ice, you have to give Mother Nature a hand.”
Mayhew said the group already has raised some money, received pledges for additional cash or donations and otherwise identified funding sources that add up to approximately $4 million. He said it is possible the facility could be built in phases, depending on how fundraising goes. The group began quietly soliciting donations in early 2016, he said, months before publicly announcing its arena plans.
The operation of the rink facility would be funded solely through user fees, Mayhew added. The nonprofit also hopes to make it the first “net-zero” energy use ice rink in North America, though he did not provide details about how that would be achieved.
Mayhew said the arena group is aware that an effort in the early 2000s by Acadia Skating Association to raise funds to build a rink on Route 3 near the Trenton town line was unsuccessful. He said that Acadia Skating, which has no connections to the Acadia Arena proposal, helped draw attention to the interest and need for an indoor rink in the Ellsworth area.
He said the proximity of the proposed Acadia Arena site to the city’s schools and to the adjacent woodland trails will help boost support for the latest rink proposal.
“It should be a pretty wonderful place,” Mayhew said.