Youth hockey teams play a game Sunday night at the opening of the first rink at Brunswick Landing. Another temporary rink is expected to open in October, a precursor to a larger, permanent arena slated for fall 2021. (Courtesy of Benet Pols)

BRUNSWICK — Competing against ice hockey teams from Bowdoin, Brunswick and Topsham for time on the ice at Bowdoin’s Sidney J. Watson Arena is “overwhelming,” and leaves some kids getting up before dawn and others traveling for more than an hour just to get some skate time, according to Bill Patterson.

This is one of several reasons that Patterson, along with the Midcoast Youth Hockey Association and others, want to build an ice arena at Brunswick Landing, site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

A small rink that opened at the Landing Sunday night was the first step. Thatl rink, which is open to the community and youth hockey players until March 10, was set up entirely by volunteers and through donations. This launch, according to Patterson, the project’s manager, was intended to help gain enthusiasm for the next stage in the process: A $1 million temporary “fabric” rink set to open at the corner of Admiral Fitch Ave and Orion Street in October. This indoor, refrigerated facility will include a “two-thirds” — or practice — rink and two curling lanes. In the offseason, they will install flooring so the rink can also be used for sports such as lacrosse, soccer or roller skating.

Then, in 2021, the third and final rink will open on Brunswick Landing: A full-sized ice arena. According to Patterson, project manager, this will be by the rec center at Brunswick Landing, once the Navy transfers the remaining land to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees development at Brunswick Landing.

The Navy still holds nearly 400 acres of the property, but Steve Levesque, executive director of the redevelopment authority, said last month that the remaining property will not be given over until it is deemed environmentally sound. Full property transfer may occur this year, he said, which would bring the redevelopment authority up to 2,100 acres of the 3,100 of the former base. Some of that, Patterson said, will hopefully be developed into a pool and athletic fields to join the rink as part of a larger sports complex.  

Before that can happen, Patterson said there is still about $150,000 of grassroots fundraising to be done for the $1 million temporary facility. This smaller space will be more cost-effective than jumping into a full-sized rink right away, he said, and will allow them to test out the $200,000 curling sheets.

Curling, a sport growing in popularity across the county and the state, requires colder, harder and more textured ice. Bowdoin College has a curling team but has to use a device known as a “pebbler” to replicate curling ice as best as they can in order to practice, or else travel to Belfast, which is home to the state’s only dedicated curling facility. Curling sheets or lanes are not currently included in the plans for the final arena and would add an additional $2 million to the anticipated $4 million to $5 million project.

“We will have to see how the curling community responds and assess the interest,” he said.

Patterson is optimistic that they will be able to raise the money, and added that much of the equipment they need to buy, like a Zamboni, chiller, rink boards, sports floor and more will transition easily to the permanent facility when it opens (hopefully) in fall 2021.

“In the long term, it’s important to have a full-sized rink,” he said, calling this a regional effort that will draw people from Harpswell, Topsham, Bath, Lisbon and beyond. “This is not (just) a Brunswick initiative by any means,” he said.

Donations to the project can be made at brunswicklandingarena.org or to Brunswick Landing Area, ℅ Midcoast Youth Hockey Association PO Box 1019, Brunswick ME 04011

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