HALLOWELL — Local hockey enthusiasts will rally Sunday in support of the doomed Kennebec Ice Arena, as the building’s owners continue to deliberate the building’s future.

The Kennebec Youth Hockey Association will celebrate the arena’s nearly 40-year history, and the generations of hockey players who grew up playing there, during a 1 p.m. rally at the Whitten Road rink parking lot.

“We’re putting on the rally to show them our support,” Kennebec Youth Hockey Association President Wendy Gagne said. “That the hockey community is behind them (re)building the rink.”

Ice arena co-owner Peter Prescott said his family is touched and encouraged by the support, but there are still details to hammer out with the insurance company before determining whether or not the arena will be rebuilt.

“Everybody in this family (wants to rebuild),” Prescott said. “I think it’s a 50-50 situation. At my age, you don’t want to get in too deep. We have to find out what it’s going to cost to put it back.”

The ice arena’s crumpled walls and bent beams continue to serve as a reminder of the March 2 roof collapse that injured no one as it occurred during a hiatus between events.

There was speculation at the time that the collapse had been caused by a heavy snow load, but Prescott said the insurance adjusters and engineers have been unable to determine a cause.

“They don’t know if it was a (microburst), or the structure itself because it was so old,” Prescott said.

“They really don’t know,” he said.

Nobody was injured, but the events kicked off a claims process with the arena’s insurance company that has yet to be completed.

“It’s the slowest process I’ve ever seen,” Prescott said. “We’re going on the fourth week since it happened. It’s pretty sad, but that’s the way it worked. I think we can start dismantling the building pretty quick. We thought that would have happened three weeks ago, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

The process will get a shot of adrenaline Sunday as hockey players from around the region rally to celebrate the arena’s history and raise money toward its future.

“It’s been a second home for us for many years,” Gagne said. “We’re all hoping and praying they rebuild there.”

Current and former youth hockey members, and anyone else who has known the pleasure of checking an opponent into the arena’s boards, are encouraged to don the hockey jerseys of their choice for the rally. There will be a group photo at 2 p.m.

There also will be auctions and a raffle to help raise money for the arena and to promote hockey in the area, Gagne said.

There will be a deejay providing music, and a memory board to sign and leave notes of support.

“The memory banner will be saved and displayed as part of the grand reopening of the new rink once construction is complete and the rink is dedicated as the new, ‘Rosy’s Rink of Dreams.'”

That name was inspired by Rosy Santerre, Prescott’s father-in-law. Santerre is one of the rink’s original owners.

“He’s been a fixture there,” Gagne said. “Our kids all know him.”

If a new arena is rebuilt, it would have to be up and running by October in order to salvage the fall hockey season, Prescott said.

It would be a great gift for Santerre, who turns 90 in November, Prescott said.

“It’s really his rink,” Prescott said. “He know more about the rink and how to run it than any of the rest of us. That’s his whole life.”

Getting into a new rink by October will be a challenge, Prescott acknowledged, but the time table is crucial.

“If we’re not going to rebuild, nobody’s in a hurry for anything. But if we’re going to rebuild, it’s critical,” Prescott said. “We’d have to work night and day, but that would be our goal, to get up by October to service all the people.

“In my mind, we’ve lost two or three weeks already because of the delays, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Prescott continued. “If we miss another season, we’ll be out of business.”

Prescott recalled the community support that went into the original building, including the countless students who turned out to lay nearly 70,000 pipe used in the ice-freezing process.

If the arena could be rebuilt now with the same kind of hands-on community involvement, the process would have already started, Prescott said.

“All kinds of people helped us try to get up and get going,” he said. “All along, it’s been a community venture.”

Ironically, the rink’s collapse has helped energize the hockey community and the organizations that have suffered from shrinking membership over the past several years.

“They’ve gotten very weak over the years,” he said. “There’s a tremendous difference between what it was when we started and what it is now. If they build that back and get the organizations back, we’ll have a real strong association to be in the leagues. I think it’s absolutely great. It’s a shame it takes something like this to get everybody together.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]


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