Norwich City Council OKs changes to agreement with ice rink operator

Norwich - The City Council Monday approved changes to the ice rink management agreement with Bridgeport-based Wonderland of Ice Associates that affect payment calculations in the second decade of the firm's lease of the facility and also allows a seven-day window for the current rink director to sign a contract with the firm.

Lisa Fedick, principal in the newly created Norwich Rosegarden Ice Associates LLC, said the key change would protect the company from either a deep economic recession at the end of the first 10-year lease term or from any direct local competition if someone builds a new rink nearby.

The change calls for Norwich Rosegarden Ice Associates to increase its annual minimum payment to the city starting in the 11th year to the base amount of $75,000 plus the lesser of either the percent increase in the Consumer Product Index from the previous year or 2.5 percent.

The previous wording called for the CPI calculation to be done based on the increase in the CPI calculated for the entire prior 10-year period, with a 30 percent cap.

Fedick said the change also would allow the rink to keep its fees charged to customers stable or with affordable increases. Fedick said the Bridgeport rink has raised public skating fee by only $1 in her 25 years of managing that municipally owned rink.

The contract for the initial 10-year lease remained unchanged. Norwich Rosegarden Ice Associates 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, the firm 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 second major change calls for rink Director Doug Roberts Jr. to have seven days to sign a contract with Norwich Rosegarden Ice Associates. Fedick said the firm intends to retain Roberts, assuming the remaining two-plus years of his contract with the city, but needs to finalize the deal quickly to start planning renovations and reopening.

The rink closed June 29, when the city removed a temporary rented chiller unit. Fedick originally had hoped to reopen by Oct. 1 after completing nearly $1 million in renovations.

"October," Fedick said Monday of a new target date. "We've lost a week. We're going to do everything we can to reopen as quickly as possible."

The rink will be named Rosegarden Ice Arena.

The Norwich Ice Rink Authority will meet Thursday to review and vote on the agreement and to turn over its contract with Roberts to the firm.

City comptroller Josh Pothier told the City Council that revenues paid to the city initially would be used to pay off the rink's debt of more than $500,000 accrued over the years in annual city subsidies that covered operating losses, costs associated with the catastrophic failure of the current cooling system and the temporary chiller.

Pothier said the debt would not be retired for 12 or 13 years.

c.bessette@theday.com

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