BIDDEFORD — Temperatures in the single digits didn’t stop a dozen kids from playing a pickup game of hockey on the West Brook Skating Rink early this week.

After lacing up their skates in the warming hut, Cody Sevigny, 12, and Colin Petit, 10, bought a puck for $2 at the skate shop and burst out the door onto the ice, hockey sticks in hand.

The rink, on about two football fields’ worth of land nestled in a gully off Pool Street, is an institution in Biddeford. Since it was opened by the Laverriere family in 1921, the rink has been a winter gathering place, where children and adults can hang out, cut figures or play hockey.

But now, volunteers from the local Knights of Columbus and Mason chapters, who run the rink, face a harsh reality. If erosion along Pool Street isn’t halted this summer, water will not be retained and the rink will not be able to open next winter, said Rick LaChance, a volunteer with the Masons.

West Brook, which runs alongside the rink and under Pool Street into the Saco River, has caused an area about 30 yards wide to erode where it passes under the street. LaChance said volunteers have used a system of pipes to anchor sandbags in that area for the past three years, but can no longer patch it.

“The only way to fix that is with heavy equipment. To try with volunteers and shovels is not an option because it’s too enormous of a problem to fix,” he said.

The West Brook Skating Rink Association is working with the city to develop a plan for repairs, City Manager John Bubier said. The city, which owns the land, has no role in operating the rink, but Bubier said it is willing to help with applications and regulations or offer any surplus supplies.

As long as grants the association is applying for are awarded and a plan from the city’s engineer is complete, the 133rd Engineering Battalion of the Maine National Guard is willing to assist with the project, said Phil Radding, the city’s facilities manager.

The estimated cost of the project won’t be known until the city’s engineer has completed a plan, LaChance said.

“There is a lot of interest in this,” he said. “People don’t want to see this go away. We want to make sure we do it right.” LaChance said he hopes the work can begin in June.

David Gagnon, a Knights of Columbus volunteer and the president of the rink association, described the rink as a legacy that volunteers want to continue.

“It’s something we’ve had in our community forever,” he said.

Colin, the 10-year-old who braved the cold to play hockey this week, said he normally shows up at the rink a couple of afternoons each week to meet with friends.

“I usually play hockey,” he said, darting into the concession hut after a half-hour of skating.

Harvey Beaulieu, who was vacuuming the floors inside the hut, said he is rewarded for the time he spends volunteering at the rink when he sees children like Colin and Cody enjoying the ice.

“It’s a great place to hang out and keep (the children) out of trouble. And it’s cheap,” Beaulieu said.

Admission costs $3 on weekdays and $3.50 on weekends. The fees, together with concession sales, help to pay the bills, LaChance said. He estimated that it costs the association $4,000 to open the rink each year. Profits from admissions and concessions are funneled back into the operation, and to assist the Knights of Columbus and the Masons.

“This whole project is not about the money. It’s about nurturing children and community. There are hundreds of kids that come every day,” LaChance said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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