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Skating Club of Boston building for the future

New facility slated to open in 2013

The Skating Club of Boston hopes its new facility will be ready for use by 2013.
The Skating Club of Boston hopes its new facility will be ready for use by 2013. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen, special to icenetwork.com
(06/13/2011) - The Skating Club of Boston has announced plans for a new facility, slated to open in late 2013.

The club has been increasingly cramped for space in its single-rink building, which dates to 1938. After searching for a suitable piece of land for several years, the club has entered into a land-exchange agreement with Harvard University, trading its current location along Western Avenue for a property at 176 Lincoln Street in Allston, Mass. The site currently houses a building shell, which will be demolished to make room for the construction of the new facility.

"For the past couple of years, the club has been experiencing growth in all our programs: Theater on Ice, synchronized skating, learn-to-skate and competitive programs," said SCOB executive director Doug Zeghibe. "The facility isn't large enough to support that. We want to be equally supportive of all the programs."

The new facility, designed by Architectural Resources Cambridge, will include three rinks: a performing surface in a 2000 to 2400 seat arena; a "hockey-friendly" rink and one rink specifically for figure skating. Zeghibe said the club plans to offer learn-to-skate programs for hockey players as well as figure skaters.

"Since we're a social club as well, we need space for social functions and off-ice training rooms for the competitors," added Zeghibe. "And a trophy room, since the club has a significant legacy of trophies."

The current space, on Western Avenue, has been beloved by generations of skaters for its ambiance, with abundant natural light from a high band of windows.

"Architect Philip Laird spent a couple of days with me at the club, and one of the things I expressed was that we've got to capture a similar environment to what we have now," said SCOB president Joe Blount. "The arch [in the proposed design] replicates the arch that's in the arena now. There will be diffuse light. We're even going to extend [the light] into the two side rinks. We want the kids to want to skate in the other rinks as well as the main one! We'll have a 4- or 5-foot band of windows."

Blount said the club has welcomed input from skaters and coaches for the new design, and that they plan to build a facility that could be used for major events as well as daily training.

"This facility should be able to accommodate most U.S. Figure Skating events, except for maybe the U.S. national championships," he said. "Junior nationals, Synchro nationals, Theater on Ice. We'd also like to do Ice Chips there."

The club has announced plans to bid for the 2014 US championships, although that event would be too large even for the new facility. Blount said the main events would likely be held in the TD Garden, if the club is awarded the event.

"We'll base our bid package on using the current club and other rinks," Zeghibe said. "If the new rink were completed we'd use it. We'll have the time to know if the new facility will be ready or not."

In 2001, SCOB hosted the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Boston's Fleet Center (now called the TD Garden).

Finding a piece of land in Boston, and close to the current location, was very important to the club. The new site is about half a mile from the present one. As part of the agreement, Harvard University will become owner of the current rink on Western Avenue and will rent it back to the club during the construction of the new facility. Harvard will also acquire the adjacent 1234 Soldiers Field Road property, currently owned by The Skating Club of Boston, where the Days Hotel will continue to operate under an existing long-term lease.

"The Skating Club of Boston is one of U.S. Figure Skating's oldest and most dynamic skating clubs, with a volunteer membership renowned throughout the skating world," David Raith, Executive Director of U.S. Figure Skating, said in a press release. "We applaud them in this new venture, and look forward to their continued and significant contributions to the world of skating."

When the new facility opens, there will likely be some sadness as people say goodbye to the old one. There are plans in place to celebrate the current rink as part of the club's 100th anniversary next year.

"That building has seen quite a lot, especially considering the 1961 plane crash," Zeghibe said.