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Monies sought for Notre Dame Arena lobby-fašade capital project

Tillotson Fund awards $100,000 to effort

Four members of the Notre Dame Arena board of directors — rink manager Joe Accardi, left, Mike Chabot, chairman Mark Dorval, and Mayor Paul Grenier — held a press conference on Saturday afternoon to show a drawing depicting a $300,000 capital project. Successful grant writer Walter Nadeau, far right, vice president of the Berlin and Co÷s County Historical Society, was also on hand. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
February 05, 2014
BERLIN — The Board of Directors of the nonprofit Notre Dame Arena (notredamearena.org) held a press conference on Saturday afternoon to announce a $300,000 capital improvement project designed to substantially reduce heating costs, greatly improve the front fašade's appearance, and stop melting snow from leaking into the building.

The Arena's front entrance and lobby will be renovated, the roofline improved, the Spartan's weightlifting gymnasium remodeled, and a large lighted cupola built atop the building.

A generous $100,000 grant award from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund must now be matched, two to one, by either cash donations, donated materials, or in-kind "sweat-equity" work, all valued at $21.70 an hour.

General contractor A.R. Couture Construction of Berlin has also generously agreed to allow materials to be donated and for volunteers — parents, previous players, and Androscoggin Valley residents — to work on the lobby/fašade project.

Four of the dozen men on the Board of Directors were on hand at Saturday's press conference: chairman Mark Dorvan, who scored a remarkable 115 goals as a center in just over three years of playing hockey at Berlin High School; Mike Chabot; rink manager Joe Accardi; and Mayor Paul Grenier.

Walter Nadeau, vice president of the Berlin and Co÷s County Historical Society, who researched the Arena's history which he has made available to all, was also on hand.

The 11 members of the Tillotson Fund Advisory Committee were impressed with Berlin's long proud history of hockey that represents an important aspect of Franco-American culture and the key role that volunteers and community-wide action has played in maintaining a covered arena in the City — only the second built in the state of New Hampshire in 1947. Dartmouth College built its arena in 1929 in Hanover.

The Arena has a $65,000 cash kitty accumulated from various fundraising events.

It also secured a three-year $85,000 note at 4.9 percent interest from the Northway Bank that must be paid back.

The total dollar amount still to be raised is $135,000, of which $50,000 is needed in the near term.

But Berlin businesses and Androscoggin Valley donors have a long history of stepping up to the plate, the mayor explained.

Thanks to community donations, artificial ice was installed in the arena in 1966 for $70,000.

In 1969 the structure collapsed, killing a young player because of a heavy and unbalanced snow load.

The Arena was rebuilt, however, and ready for use in Feb. 1970.

In 2006, the Arena was starting to show its age until a generous donation from Dan and Elaine Dagesse allowed for renovations to made that included new boards, new lighting, fresh paint and upgrades to the equipment that help contribute to a far better ice surface.

The original arena was the idea of Father Omer Bousquet, pastor of Berlin's Angel Guardian Church. The priest purchased the land with his own funds and, with community help, built a $65,000 structure for $38,000. Only $19,000 of the cost was financed, and that was paid in three years. Up to 300 volunteers would show up on any given day to build the arena that was completed in 65 days.

The main building measures 125- by 200-feet, with a front section measuring 13- by 125-feet plus rear back additions that contain the Zamboni room and space for locker rooms and ammonia and salt brine ice making equipment. The ice hockey rink measures 85- by 187 feet, and the Arena also houses six locker rooms, a referee room, lobby with snack bar, pro shop, a 3,000-square-foot health club that used to be used as a banquet hall with kitchen, a modern scoring clock, compressors and modern electrical panels, a zoned heating system, and space for 1,680 spectators.

Hundreds of people of all ages use the facility each year, ranging from boys' and girls' teams from Berlin High School, youth hockey that draws youngsters from a wide area, adult broomball leagues, pick-up play, learn-to-skate sessions, and public skating time.

"It's a tremendous community resource that is part of our quality of life," Grenier explained. "It's part of our heritage, and I know that people will reach deep — as they have in the past — to help support this capital project. All the work that people contribute to the Arena is a truly a labor of love."

Nadeau added, "The City has a marvelous track record of stewardship."

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