Waterville’s North Street Recreation Area, with the Alfond Youth & Community Center at the top, is seen in 2021. The soccer fields in the foreground were planned for a move that would allow an ice arena to be built on the site. Photo courtesy of the city of Waterville

WATERVILLE — The City Council voted 7-0 on Wednesday to reallocate about $1.16 million initially intended for various projects, including moving soccer fields from North Street to allow the Alfond Youth & Community Center to build an ice arena there.

Waterville will not be moving soccer fields to the Pine Ridge Recreation Area off West River Road. Officials at the Alfond Center recently decided not to put the ice rink at the North Street fields and is looking for another location.

Wednesday’s vote came as a former city councilor chided officials for spending on recreation upgrades instead of repairing crumbling city roads.

Claude Francke, a former city councilor, objected to using the funds for recreation projects. He said the city’s Finance Committee proposed a $5 million bond in 2021 for street rebuilding and repair, and the council targeted $2.5 million of that amount for moving the North Street soccer fields so the ice arena could be built.

Francke said it now takes three schools to form an ice hockey team in Waterville because there are so few players. With the ice arena plans on hold, funds should be returned toward repairing and paving roads, he said.

“It would appear that this council has given up on improving Waterville roads, which would benefit local residents and local businesses,” Francke said.


Matt Skehan, director of the Parks & Recreation Department, gave councilors a long list of proposed improvements to recreation assets for which $624,800 of the leftover money would be used, including expanded playground features at the North Street Playground; paving the parking lot; installing roofs for structures there; building a new concession, restroom and storage building; upgrading the pool bathhouse; and building two picnic shelters.

Other proposed projects include: Work on the Pine Ridge Recreation Area trails and LED lights for Rummel’s Field there; a picnic shelter at Green Street Park; additional playground features at the Chaplin and Grove street playgrounds; and a playground and basketball court at Sterling Street Park.

Pine Ridge soccer field drainage work, parking and upgrades to facilities and a citywide ballfield assessment were also proposed.

The balance of the funds will be earmarked after the city reviews data from a 2024 economic impact study for recreation assets, expected in the spring of 2025. The City Council and community members will be asked to help identify additional improvements.

In 2021, councilors approved a $2 million bond to improve city recreational assets, and the bond was issued in 2022. It was to be used for North Street and Pine Ridge because the Alfond Center at the time was planning to build the multimillion-dollar hockey and ice skating arena where the North Street soccer fields are.

The city would have leased the land under the rink to the Alfond Center as part of the plan. To accommodate the youth soccer program, the city would have had to expand Pine Ridge and its parking area and improve facilities there.


Ken Walsh, the CEO of the Alfond Center, said earlier this week that officials had reevaluated the ice arena proposal for North Street following escalating costs that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they remain committed to finding the right location for a rink.

Walsh also said some people in the community had objected to moving the soccer fields, and officials were sensitive to that.

The city made improvements in 2022 to six playgrounds — on North, Green, Chaplin and Grove streets and on Western and Hillside avenues. A new skatepark was built at Green Street Park, a concession stand and storage shed was built on Reed Field at George J. Mitchell School and basketball and tennis courts were built at the recreation area on North Street.

Skehan said Wednesday that while much of the work was done in 2022, officials could not do a lot in 2023 because of the uncertainty related to plans for the ice arena. The Alfond Center notified the city in January it had decided not to build the rink on North Street.

Councilor Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, and others asked Wednesday if some uses not targeted for the leftover funds could be considered, including a skatepark for the North End of the city. Skehan said that once the scheduled improvements are made, officials can look at other requests, such as the skatepark.

“It’s something we certainly could consider,” he said.

Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, recalled discussions held last year about the ballfield on Mathews Avenue and how to make improvements for neighbors. It is a vibrant and well-used field, he said. Skehan said the city is looking at fencing, netting and hedges for the field.

In response to a question by Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, Skehan said almost all of the projects for which funds have been used so far have come in under budget, enabling more projects to be launched.

“Thank you very much,” Green said. “I know this is a lot of choices and priorities, and it’s hard to choose, but I love it.”

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