State of Massachusetts Partnership
FMC has worked in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) since 1992. During the 1960s and 1970s, DCR (formerly the Department of Environmental Management and the Metropolitan District Commission) developed the largest publicly owned ice rink system in the United States with 42 community ice skating facilities located across the Commonwealth.
In late 1991 and early 1992 the Commonwealth developed a plan to achieve the public mission of the ice rink system in a more efficient and entrepreneurial manner. The end product is what is known today as the “DCR Rink Partnership Program”. This creative concept has led to an entirely new approach to delivering public recreation and preserving the aging facilities that support those programs.
FMC has been an active participant in this program from the beginning days. The founding premise of the company mirrors the goals established in the early planning of the rink partnership program; delivering high quality and affordable ice sports and recreation programs to our communities.
In the early days, the rink partnership program consisted of management agreements between the Commonwealth and rink operators or “partners” which placed the responsibility for delivering the public program with the facility operators such as FMC. Maintaining the public policies along with strict oversight while providing the flexibility for operators to market and deliver programs as well as shift budgetary resources quickly proved to be a winning formula.
At the same time as the program was establishing a record of success, the aging facilities began to require increasingly prohibitive capital repairs and replacements. This drove the concept of long-term partnerships as a way to retain the positives of the partnership model while meeting the capital needs. This concept was created through legislation that maintained all the successful attributes of original program while extending the term to 25 years to allow the operators to invest capital in the facilities.
Currently FMC operates 18 DCR ice rinks (one, a third-party municipal partnership) and invests several million dollars each year in a long-term capital repair and improvement program that systematically revitalizes the arenas. The public facilities are mandated to be self-supportive with no taxpayer funds of any kind used for either operation or capital improvement. In fact, a portion of every dollar generated at the arenas is dedicated to support other essential governmental programs and services.
Aside from the benefits to the taxpayers and the state government, the ice sports community has reaped the benefits of this creative partnership model. The arenas are open for a substantially longer ice season (many are year-round), programs have been expanded to reach virtually every age and ability, new equipment and amenities provide an improved skating surface and safer environment, all the while user fees are substantially less than commercial and even many public ice arenas.
Town of Burlington Partnership
The Burlington Ice Palace was built by the Graham family of Burlington in the early 1970s. It was developed as a privately owned commercial ice skating facility with a single ice surface that was then expanded to two surfaces within a few years of opening.
In the early 1990s the second surface was closed and the rear building was sold. After a few different uses it eventually became a health and fitness club that continues to operate today. The original ice rink and building was in danger of closing in the early 1990s when the Town of Burlington agreed to purchase the property from the Graham family to ensure it remained an ice arena for the recreation of the Town’s citizens.
Finally, a volunteer based organization managed the facility for the Town. In early 1998 FMC began working with the Town under a management services contract that provided for FMC to operate the facility within the Town’s Enterprise Fund. Over the ensuing 11 years the arena operated on a self-supporting basis, covering all operational costs as well as the bonded debt that was used to purchase the property.
With failing mechanical systems, a leaking roof and an assortment of other capital needs pressing, the Town sought proposals from interested parties for a 20-year capital improvement partnership agreement in the beginning of 2009. FMC responded to the call for proposals and entered into a long-term agreement in February of 2009.
The agreement requires the replacement of the ice rink refrigeration system, main electrical service, HVAC units, a new roof, new dasher boards, as well as interior and exterior renovations over the life of the partnership. The arena remains a Town-owned public facility with scheduling and pricing preferences for local citizens. A Town committee oversees the operation and management of the facility and works closely with FMC to ensure the programmatic and operational priorities of the Town are met.
Town of Natick Partnership
The “West Suburban Arena” was developed by a group of dedicated hockey and skating enthusiasts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The two surface ice arena was very successful and helped establish competitive and recreational hockey as well as figure skating in the metro-west area.
The Town of Natick purchased the two-surface facility in 1986. In 1988 the Town closed the rear ice surface and converted it to its current use as a DPW garage. A local non-profit organization leased and managed the facility for the nominal fee of $1.00 per year up until 2003 when the Town chose not to renew the lease.
In July of 2003, FMC entered an eight-year agreement with the Town that requires a significant capital investment into the facility. Projects completed under the agreement included:
- New electric ice resurfacing equipment (Zamboni)
- New refrigeration system
- Desiccant dehumidification￼
- New boilers and water heaters￼
- A low-emmisivity rink ceiling
- New high efficiency lighting throughout the building
- Other facility upgrades and renovations including a new access hall for the team rooms
In addition to these projects, FMC agreed to purchase the equipment owned by the previous operator of the arena and transfer ownership to Natick to ensure the Town has clear title to all property inside the facility.
On June 11th in 2006, the Town and FMC joined together to re-name the arena in honor of one of the founders, William “Bill” Chase. Bill successfully managed the arena in its fledging years, earning a reputation as one of the best facilities in the Commonwealth. Along with his wife Augie, he was instrumental in developing hockey and skating programs and positively influenced the lives of countless kids and families with their caring and tireless efforts. He was one of the founders of the Natick Comets Youth Hockey Association. The facility is now known as “William Chase Arena”.
In July 2011, FMC Ice Sports entered into a 20 year lease agreement with the Town.