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Costs for work on Memorial Sports Center rise

MIDDLEBURY — Many Vermont building contractors have more business than they can handle right now, and that’s translated into higher-than-anticipated bids to complete a second-floor build-out of Middlebury’s Memorial Sports Center off Buttolph Drive.
But here’s the good news — sports center boosters have found budget savings, secured volunteer labor and have been lining up additional grants and donations to the extent that work on the project kicked off three weeks ago and is expected to be done by the time hockey season begins this fall.
“We’re making the best of the situation,” Friends of Middlebury Hockey (FMH) President Michael McAuliffe told the selectboard at its Tuesday evening meeting. The board has agreed to support FMH’s application for $25,000 through the state’s Building Communities Grant Program, in order to help boosters bridge the financial gap.
It was two years ago that the nonprofit FMH group organized a $350,000 project to complete the sports center’s second floor. “Friends” raised $311,976 from a combined 325 sources, including local families, businesses and civic organizations like the Middlebury American Legion Post No. 27.
That “Phase 2” effort will result in, among other things:
• A heated viewing area for up to 150 spectators to comfortably watch the rink action through 60 running feet of 8-foot-tall glass. The area will afford a mixture of seats and standing room.
• Bathrooms for spectators. No longer will viewers have to trudge across the sports center property to use the pool house restrooms.
• Free Wi-Fi.
• Elevator access to the second floor.
• An administrative office for rink staff.
• A multi-purpose room for team meetings, community events, birthday parties and more.
• Improved concessions.
These latest upgrades are part of FMH’s goal of making the sports center a year-around facility. It already plays a critical role in hosting ice hockey and skating activities for all ages and competitive levels. Future plans call for the center to host the Vermont Brew arena league football team.
The sports center’s construction in 1993 and subsequent upgrades have not used any local property tax dollars, a model that isn’t going to change, according to boosters.
Middlebury residents on Town Meeting Day authorized FMH to borrow another $100,000 through the National Bank of Middlebury to help retire project debt. The sports center is retiring its debt, in part, through fundraising, business sponsorships, donations and rental revenues from arena users.
Unfortunately, construction costs have jumped substantially since FMH spec’d out the project in 2017, McAuliffe noted. For example, an elevator that had been estimated at $58,000 is now priced at $73,000. Plumbing and mechanical work for the upstairs restrooms — originally estimated at around $41,000 — has ballooned to more than $80,000,  according to McAuliffe.
“We’ve cut around $35,000 out of the budget through simplifying some options and eliminating some non-essential things,” McAuliffe told the selectboard. “We’re also working with some volunteers to get (free) labor to save some money there. But we still have a critical gap of around $23,000 at this time.”
More information about the center and the second-floor project can be found at memorialsportscenter.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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