Operator picked for Norwich ice rink has curling, hockey in plans

Norwich - If Lisa Fedick's plans to take over management of the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink come together, expect to see figure skating and hockey competitions and lessons, perhaps yoga or ballet in the rink's community room and maybe an occasional bonspiel.

That's the term used for a curling tournament.

Fedick's Wonderland of Ice Associates, which has operated the Bridgeport municipal ice rink since 1989, was selected by the Norwich City Council Monday to run the city's rink.

Fedick would create Norwich Rose Ice Associates to run the rink and hopes to sign a contract with city officials by July 1. City Comptroller Josh Pothier said Tuesday he is optimistic that can be done. Pothier started working on a contract Tuesday, using the rink management contract in West Hartford and Bridgeport's contract with Wonderland as models.

Wonderland's proposal calls for an initial 10-year operating period followed by three 10-year options. Wonderland would pay Norwich 5 percent of gross receipts during the first three years and the greater of 5 percent of gross receipts or $75,000 for the following seven years. Wonderland would invest close to $1 million to replace the cooling system and other equipment.

Anticipating a quick transition, Fedick said Tuesday she has contacted her refrigeration contractor in hopes work could start even before the contract is finalized.

The Norwich rink has been operating with a temporary, costly exterior chiller since October. The unit will be shut down June 30. Wonderland hopes to reopen the rink by Oct. 1.

Fedick, a former competitive figure skater and the figure skating team coach at Sacred Heart University, said she turned a degree in chemical engineering and a passion for skating into a rink management business in Bridgeport.

She met her husband, John Ferguson, when he leased the pro shop in 1989. He became her business partner. Ferguson said he and his family would run the Norwich pro shop.

Wonderland expanded the Bridgeport rink in 2006, adding a second NHL-size rink and a 50-foot-by-150-foot curling ice sheet. Three curling games can be played at one time on that surface, making it attractive to bonspiels.

In curling - a hugely popular sport in Canada - players don't wear skates, and they use curling brooms to guide the 44-pound granite stone that is slid down the 15-by-150-foot ice surface. Fedick hopes to introduce the sport on Norwich's hockey rink.

"Curling is a great sport, because you don't have to skate to do it," Fedick said. "It could get more people in the building and involved. We're hoping we can really create something everyone can enjoy."

As for the more conventional ice sports, Fedick hopes to reinvigorate both local figure skating and hockey. She plans at least four days a week of figure skating lessons in conjunction with the U.S. Figure Skating Club and the Ice Skating Institute that already use the Norwich rink.

She hopes to work with local youth hockey and high schools, including St. Thomas More School in Montville, where both of her sons went to school, to boost the sport.

When she visited the Norwich rink in response to the city's advertisement, Fedick also looked across the street at Three Rivers Community College.

"I'm hoping to get something going with the college students there," she said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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