AUBURN — The first sheet of ice in the city's new dual-sheet ice arena could be open in November, according to developers and city officials.
"We are coordinating a transition plan, opening Rink 1 here, transitioning Ingersol Arena to Rink 2 and opening here," Ice Arena Manager Joshua MacDonald told city councilors Monday.
MacDonald and Hebert Construction co-owner Mike Hebert led city councilors, city staff and some Auburn residents on a tour of the facility, currently being built just off Turner Street near the Auburn Mall. Hebert is the contractor for the project.
The first sheet, with a concrete floor below the ice surface and seating for 810 and room for another 500 spectators, should be ready to go in November. A series of 10 team locker rooms, five coach and two referee lockers, as well as the second-floor offices and spectator areas, should be ready then as well.
A second ice surface, with roughly 180 seats and standing room for another 450 spectators, should be ready and the construction should be complete in January. The smaller rink will have a sand floor.
"The sand floor is a perfectly good ice surface, but it will be an ice rink permanently," Hebert said. "With the concrete floor, you'll have the ability to remove the ice and use it for multiple purposes — conferences, or a trade show or graduation."
MacDonald said the facility will be surrounded by a 380-space parking lot. The front of the building and main entrance will face east, overlooking Shaw's Supermarket and Center Street. It will be a plain metal building, with landscaping to dress it up once construction is finished.
"The big thing has been to build this not as a glamorous building, but efficient," Hebert said.
City councilors approved the lease agreement on the ice rink in October, agreeing to let developer George Schott build the ice arena on land he owns behind Shaw's on Turner Street. According to the plan, the city will lease the facility from Schott. Rink revenue is expected to cover most of the costs.
Councilors said Monday that they are concerned about costs associated with the construction and the arena's ability to make ends meet without financial help from the city.
"Is it normal to be 75 days out and not have all of the contracts, everything you need, signed and finalized?" Councilor Tizz Crowley said.
MacDonald said that information was coming. The city is negotiating to make the facility the home ice for four area high schools and their boys and girls hockey programs, with St. Dominic's agreeing to use the rink's ice when it's complete, MacDonald said.
He's negotiating with area businesses for sponsorship opportunities and has started the process to determine naming rights for the facility. He said he's expecting to receive the first round of letters of interest Thursday.
"That's the first round of engaging and seeing what we have now," MacDonald said. "Are there partners that have presented viable opportunities? As we go forward, we are asking people to explain their interest and how much it's worth to them."
MacDonald said the facility had budgeted to have $64,000 in sponsorships at this point. It has $70,000 in sponsorships so far.
Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said he's confident the city will see plenty of economic impact from the arena. He noted that Monday's confirmation that national sporting goods retailer the Sports Authority will locate a store across the parking lot from the new rink is just the start.
"I've talked to a lot of the retailers in this area as this project has been ramping up, and some of their corporate offices have gone from having serious questions about the viability of this market to being very bullish," LaBonte said. "It's a good place to be. For years, local dollars have been seeping to Augusta or Topsham or South Portland. I think this place will help bring in outside dollars and retailers to help capture the dollars that had been leaving."