Norwich turns over troubled city ice rink to new managers

Norwich - Control of the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink has officially been turned over to Wonderland of Ice, the Bridgeport ice rink management firm selected last month from among three proposals to take over daily operations at the city-owned rink.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a contract with Wonderland - which will operate the rink under the name Norwich Rosegarden Ice Associates LLC - that calls for the company to run the rink for an initial 10-year period. The firm also has the option for three additional 10-year extension periods.

Mayor Deberey Hinchey said she was "very, very proud" of the city's negotiating team to get a completed contract within three weeks' time. The contract was the final negotiation session for long-time city Purchasing Agent William Block, who retired last week.

"I'm glad to get it done," Alderman Mark Bettencourt said. "I think we're going to end up with an excellent product for the city of Norwich."

The rink closed on June 29, when a temporary rented chiller unit was disconnected. Once Wonderland of Ice completes extensive renovations, the rink is expected to reopen in October.

The firm will operate the rink year-round and pay the city 5 percent of adjusted gross revenues during the first three years. In the fourth year, Wonderland will pay the city either 5 percent of adjusted gross revenues or the minimum of $75,000, whichever is greater. Payment percentages increase in future years, depending on the rink's revenues, to as much as 10 percent of adjusted gross revenues if the rink makes more than $800,000 per year.

The company also has the responsibility either to run the rink's snack bar and pro shop or bring in third-party vendors to run them. Wonderland will pay the city for the existing inventory in the pro shop.

Wonderland has agreed to 15 capital improvements at the rink, ranging from replacing the cooling system to purchasing a second Zamboni ice resurfacing machine to "aesthetic improvements to the entry lobby and common area." The company also is responsible for all routine maintenance, including snow removal.

Wonderland will take over the city's three-year contract with rink director Doug Roberts, Jr., who earns $60,000 this year.

The firm also agreed to honor about $500 in outstanding gift certificates and will provide temporary free ice time to groups that rent the Norwich rink at the Bridgeport ice rink the firm also manages until the Norwich rink reopens. The company also has been asked to arrange ice time at either the Connecticut College rink or a rink in Pomfret for youth hockey teams in the region.

c.bessette@theday.com

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