Second-floor upgrade on tap at sports center

MIDDLEBURY — Stewards of Middlebury’s Memorial Sports Center have embarked on a new fund drive that would result in the long-awaited completion of the second floor of the 24-year-old community recreational facility that has served as the much-used home for Addison County ice hockey programs.
Specifically, boosters of the Memorial Sports Center, or MSC, want to raise $350,000 for a project that would, among other things, create a heated viewing area, elevator access and public restrooms for the top floor of the sports center.
“Now is the time to complete the center and make it a point of civic pride,” reads a fundraising letter signed by campaign leaders Devin McLaughlin, Dave Donahue and iconic Middlebury College hockey coaches Bill Beaney and Bill Mandigo.
That letter was sent out last month to more than 700 MSC supporters, some of whom have been patrons and contributors to the facility since it opened its doors off Buttolph Drive back in 1993. It was a community effort, spawned by contributions ranging from $1 to $100,000 from area individuals, businesses and civic groups. Friends of Middlebury Hockey — a tax-exempt organization with a goal to support youth hockey of all types in the Middlebury area — has been directly involved in the fundraising, construction, expansion and ongoing improvements of the sports center.
Organizers many years ago signed over ownership of the center to the town, but the Friends group continues to manage and operate the facility.
The Middlebury Amateur Hockey Association has long operated youth hockey programs in the MSC, and has taken a keen interest in its operation, maintenance and improvement.
It should also be noted the MSC has evolved into a year-round amenity, used for high school commencement, charity events, and other activities.
Boosters, led by the MSC Commission, have completed several upgrades at the center during the past two decades. It was equipped with a seasonal ice system in 1995, followed by permanent refrigeration in 2000. The community also supported the installation of donated boards and bleachers, as well as a new Zamboni room.
In 2008, MSC boosters celebrated the opening of a new, 6,490-foot addition containing four locker rooms with shared bathrooms, along with a skate rental area that also served as a concession stand. This meant athletes no longer had to hobble their way on skates to changing rooms in the adjacent municipal pool house.
Almost 10 years later, MSC fans want to “crown” the center with a second-floor transformation that will include:
•  A heated viewing area for up to 150 spectators to comfortably view the rink action through 60 running feet of 8-foot-tall glass. The area would afford a mixture of seats and standing room.
•  Bathrooms for spectators. No longer would viewers have to trudge across the MSC property to use the pool house restrooms.
•  Free Wi-Fi.
•  Elevator access.
•  An administrative office for rink staff.
•  A multi-purpose room for team meetings, community events, birthday parties and more.
•  Improved concessions.
McLaughlin noted the organization has already raised $115,000 toward its goal through an ongoing silent phased of the campaign. He gave a big shout-out to the Middlebury American Legion Post No. 27 for its $25,000 pledge.
“That got us off the ground running,” he said.
Organizers hope the project can be started and completed during the 2018-2019 winter season, according to McLaughlin. And he’d like to see some new faces share in the funding effort.
“We hope to be able to reach the next generation of people who can enjoy the benefits (of the MSC) going forward,” McLaughlin said. “It’s time for the next generation to step up.”
For more information on the project and how to donate, log on to memorialsportscenter.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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