M.V. Arena, YMCA enter into game-changing collaboration

From left: YMCA board president Mark Baumhofer, M.V. Arena board president Geoghan Coogan, M.V. Arena general manager Peter Lambos, and YMCA executive director Jill Robie in front of the Martha's Vineyard Ice Arena. — Sam Moore

This week, the leadership of the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena and the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA voted independently and unanimously to take action that will change the landscape of sports and recreation on the Island. On Tuesday, the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena board of directors voted to embark on a top-down $3.5 million restoration of the ailing facility that will replace virtually everything but the new roof. The M.V. Ice Arena board also voted to enter into a shared-services agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA.

The YMCA board unanimously endorsed the deal on Wednesday which will put Peter Lambos, current executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, at the arena helm.

Informal discussions began a year ago. This week those talks bore fruit.

 “This is the first step in bringing both of the entities together,” M.V. Arena board president Geoghan Coogan told The Times on Wednesday.

“We serve a lot of the same people; there’s a lot of overlap,” YMCA executive director Jill Robie said. “Our first step is getting the rink and the YMCA working on congruent terms.”

“The Y is excited that the arena is stepping up to renovate their building, and we want to do everything we can to help them succeed,” YMCA board of directors president Mark Baumhofer said. “We will be there to support and consult. We have been in existence now for almost 10 years, and there are certain things that we’ve learned that we’d like to share. It could be fundraising, it could be staff management, it could be marketing; however we can help.”

Mr. Baumhofer said the YMCA is also looking to expand, adding indoor space that will house a basketball court, an indoor track, exercise equipment, and classroom space: “We have certain needs that aren’t being met here. Because of our success, we need things like more exercise space, more room for afterschool programs. We haven’t honed in on details as yet.”

“The idea of two nonprofits working together to be more efficient is unheard-of on the Island,” Mr. Coogan, a lawyer in private practice, said. said. “In my mind it’s the single best way for these two places to be here forever. That’s what this is all about.”

New GM

As part of the shared-services agreement, the YMCA board recommended that the first step for M.V. Arena was to hire a full-time general manager. The M.V. Arena board acted with slap-shot speed and hired Mr. Lambos, who will begin in the M.V. Arena’s general manager position on July 1.

“My first priority is to make a smooth transition from the Boys & Girls Club,” Mr. Lambos said. “It’s a bittersweet situation. It’s not me walking away from the Boys & Girls Club. This is a great opportunity for me, and it’s also a chance for the club to be infused by the energy of a new leader.”

Mr. Lambos stressed he was not recruited for the job; rather, he heard about it through the Vineyard grapevine and immediately threw his hat in the ring. “I’ll still be volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club,” he said. “I see this as an opportunity to better the relationship between these three organizations.”

“It’s very exciting for us to have Pete on board, because he’s a local kid and he’s proven himself at the Boys and Girls Club,” M.V. Arena board member and Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack told The Times earlier in the week. “We’re looking for somebody to be the face of the new arena, who can increase ice sales and work with our philosophy — which is that this is a community rink that provides a safe environment for Islanders of all ages to come and skate.”

Mr. McCormack also endorsed the shared-services agreement: “The Y can be a big help with management and scheduling and personnel oversight. They have pros that do this for a living. Right now the rink is run mostly by volunteers. They do a good job, but we’re trying to raise the level of professionalism at the rink. When potential donors see that we have good management and a solid business plan, they’re a lot more likely to see us as worthy of the investment.”

“This [agreement] is a big step in the right direction, and Pete is a great choice to run the rink,” M.V. Arena stalwart Bob Mone told The Times. “It’s been run on a shoestring all these years. I never had any money to pay anybody. We’re lucky we still have ice.”

New ice age

The current arena opened in 1974 as an outdoor rink. It was built by a group of dedicated volunteers who patched it together with grassroots funding and donated labor and materials. It was fully enclosed in 1992. The facility has spawned a long tradition of youth and adult hockey programs, and successful travel teams and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys and girls programs. But despite best efforts, the 42-year-old building is showing its age. It’s an energy sieve, and the cost to make and maintain ice in the leaky building is enormous, about $100,000 a year and increasing every year.

At one point, discussions were trending toward a plan to build a new rink and convert the existing rink into an indoor field house, but it became clear the cost would be prohibitive.

“The cost of building a new rink and converting the existing rink into a field house would be about $14 million, and take at least five years,” Mr. Coogan said. “The message from the donor base was that was probably not going to happen.”

The group is wasting no time on the rink renovation: “We have someone coming on Monday with a big radar system to determine what’s under the ice and how much digging will need to be done. Then we wait for ice to melt and start taking things apart.”

An engineer has been working on renovation plans for the past six months, and Mr. Coogan expects the board will see drawings by the end of the month.

Mr. Baumhofer said the shared-services agreement and the hiring of Mr. Lambos will be key components for fundraising: “When you go to potential donors for large amounts of money, you need a feasibility study and you need a plan. The shared-services agreement and hiring Peter are two big steps, and we’ll have the finalized plan by the end of the month.”

“Our hope is to get the rink renovation underway and have it ready for the 2017 season,” Mr. Coogan said.

Mr. Coogan said if all goes as planned, the facility will close in early March next year, and the new and improved Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena will reopen in September.

Correction – Thursday June 16 11:54 – A previous version of this article said the YMCA would manage the MV Arena staff. It will act only as a consultant to the MV Arena staff.