Panel to review proposals to run Norwich ice rink

Norwich - The City Council Monday appointed a seven-member committee to review the three ice rink management proposals received in May and asked the group to recommend a preferred operator by the June 16 council meeting.

If the council approves a preferred operator that night, city officials would have 60 days to negotiate a contract with the firm.

The time schedule means the rink will be closed through the summer. Rink officials plan to disconnect a rented chiller unit - that costs $1,000 per day - by the end of this month.

Committee members are city Purchasing Agent William Block, Comptroller Josh Pothier, Deputy Comptroller Tony Madeira and Ice Rink Authority members Gary Makowicki, Cheryl Ritacco and Joann Beguhl. The seventh member is Jeffrey Brining of Norwich Public Utilities

In a controversial move in March, the council voted to seek proposals to lease the rink to a private management firm that would pay rent of at least $75,000 per year or a portion of revenue. The management firms could obtain longer leases if they agreed to replace the failed rink cooling system and related equipment. All three firms that submitted bids offered to replace the equipment, but their proposals varied as to how they would pay the city.

Wonderland of Ice of Bridgeport proposed a 10-year lease followed by two 10-year extensions at their discretion, and would pay the city 2.5 percent of hourly rental revenue for the first year, 3 percent in the second, increasing to 5 percent in the fifth year. In later years, the payments would range from 3 percent to 10 percent of gross revenue.

FMC Ice Sports of Pembroke, Mass., proposed a 25-year lease paying $75,000 per year or 10 percent of gross revenues, whichever were greater. FMC estimated revenues ranging from $510,000 in the first year to $820,000 by the fifth year. The rink's revenues totaled $629,000 from October through April.

Champions Skating Center of Cromwell, run by former Hartford Whaler Robert Crawford, would pay the city either 10 percent or $75,000 per year for a 25-year lease. Champions estimated annual revenues at the rink range from $865,000 to $1.3 million from the first to the fifth year.

c.bessette@theday.com

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