AUBURN — A $404,000 retrofit at the city's Ingersoll Ice Arena would make more room for the junior hockey leagues and other teams that consider it home ice while giving fans and spectators a warm place to sit.
"One of the complaints we hear all the time is that it is cold, especially in the winter," Recreation Director Ravi Sharma said. "We'd like to fix that."
Councilors on Tuesday got their first look at draft plans for the work, which would add a second floor with meeting spaces, a warm area for spectators to watch games and bigger locker rooms.
"We really feel that the arena is poised to become a destination in the city," Sharma said. "The proposed expansion would allow us to offer a higher quality experience for our customers. As the city progresses, we feel the arena should, too. To reach its full potential, an expansion is necessary."
Junior league and high school hockey are still the main reason the facility exists.
"It went from an outdoor rink and finally was enclosed so we could operate year-round," he said. "That lets more people use it — women's leagues, hockey clinics."
The arena is home ice for Edward Little High School, Leavitt Area High School and the combined Gray-New Gloucester and Poland high school hockey team.
"The locker rooms we have now just don't work for adults," Sharma said. "They're fine for the junior hockey, but they are too small for anyone else."
Those lockers would be left alone, but the northern end of the arena would be expanded. Four larger locker rooms would be added, with separate toilet and shower areas and a room each for coaches.
The addition would also have two stories. The concession stand would go on the second floor and would be surrounded by a warm observation area.
"One of the problems we have is that it's not easy for people watching the game to get to the concession and back to their seats," Sharma said. "They have the choice of standing there and eating their food or not going to the concession at all. Now, we would like to provide them a place to sit and eat if they want."
The small pro shop would expand and move into the old first-floor concession area.
The second floor would have two meeting rooms with windows overlooking the rink. Those rooms would provide overflow seating during tournaments and big matches and would be rented out for meetings. Sharma estimated the rooms would earn $4,800 per year for the arena.
The arena is paid for out of an enterprise fund separate from the city's general fund and is mostly self-sufficient. The city could sell bonds to pay for the $400,000 upgrade or it could use the arena enterprise fund's $763,000 fund balance or some combination. Sharma said the Recreation Department is also considering a fundraiser to help pay for the work.
He said he'd like to have the work done in September, if councilors approve. Councilors will have to give a formal OK for the project to proceed.
"This is one of those things that the city forgets about," Councilor Mike Farrell said. "It was just its own beast. It brings in its own money and pays its bills and takes care of itself. It's something that really could have been a cash cow for the city. This is really an example of us bringing it to the level where it should have been 20 years ago."