MV Arena looks to the future and solid ice

MV Arena looks to the future and solid ice

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The MV Arena in 1974 when it was little more than a flooded field. — Photo courtesy of MV Arena

The MV Arena, the Island’s only ice arena, has evolved over the years from a field flooded with water in the winter and funded with no budget to an enclosed facility that provides year-round public programs and an operating budget of more than $400,000.

Arena leaders say it has been pretty much a shoestring operation. Now, they say, it is time for new shoes. And they hope a fundraiser brunch planned for Saturday afternoon at the Hooked restaurant in Oak Bluffs will be the start.

Over the course of more than 25 years, the arena has given birth to a school hockey program that has produced two state high school championship ice hockey teams, helped develop skilled figure skaters and provided countless hours of enjoyment for skaters of all ages.

Kurt Mundt, the arena’s general manager, said that while most of the groups that use the arena, including the high school, pay a fee for their ice time, it is not enough to cover expenses, let alone fund improvements.

“Not too long ago it was just us and the Boys and Girls Club offering affordable sports programs for the public and trying to raise funds to stay open,” Mr. Mundt said.

These days the field is much more crowded with nonprofits. In an effort to raise their profile and much-needed funds, the MV Arena will hold a brunch fundraiser, “Get Hooked,” this Saturday, August 4, from 11 am to 2 pm at the restaurant Hooked on Beach Road in Oak Bluffs, the former home of Lola’s.

The MV Arena hopes to raise money to help “keep the doors open” and to cover operating costs, according to Mr. Mundt. Tickets are $75 per person.

An auction will give bidders a chance to take home items that include a Bobby Orr signed lithography of “The Goal,” a sunset sail on the 50-foot schooner Charlotte with Nat Benjamin, a tour of the Boston Colleges Eagles locker room and the opportunity to meet the 2012 NCAA national hockey champions, and the Boston Bruins memorabilia book “60 to History” signed by Cam Neely.

Christine Todd, arena development director, made a distinction between groups that raise funds and use the arena and Saturday’s fundraiser.

For example, she said said there are four independent groups that raise money for their own programs at the arena, The Martha’s Vineyard Regional School girls and boys hockey teams’ booster clubs, the figure skating group and the youth hockey program.

Ms. Todd said all are good groups that deserve support. However, donations made to any of those groups do not specifically fund the arena. The Hooked fundraiser is for the arena alone and is necessary to keep the arena open for all of the groups, she said.

Throughout the year the arena is a busy place. In addition to the high school teams there are various hockey leagues including a high school summer league, the MV Figure Skating Club, MV Youth Hockey, Skating School of Martha’s Vineyard. There is also public skating time.

Big plans

This spring, the MV Arena announced plans to open a capital fundraising campaign to renovate the arena. Ms. Todd said that the arena has grown in bits and pieces over the years without a master plan. First the ice then boards, a roof and stands, then walls, some insulation and most recently locker rooms funded by generous donors.

She said that Mashek MacLean Architects of Vineyard Haven has been selected to develop a feasibility study for improvements, renovations, and expansions at the ice rink.

Preliminary architectural drawings have been created with an addition to the rear of the rink to create more office space and to expand the lobby area to better accommodate the growing number of user groups. New and better-insulated roof and walls will reduce the largest single operational budget item, utility costs, by 50 percent, according to Ms. Todd. The arena held an open meeting to solicit community input in June and is still open to ideas, she said.

For more information on the arena or Saturday’s fundraiser, go to www.mvarena.com, or call 508-693-5329.