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Martha’s Vineyard Arena

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Rink booster says investing in much-needed roof repairs and solar energy conversion could benefit investor and Islanders alike.

The MV Ice Arena. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Arena (MVA) is showing its age. The 20-year-old roof on the 40-year-old building is leaking. Since it’s not insulated, the roof hemorrhages heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. The MVA electric bill is over $100,000 a year — more than half the annual operating budget.

Now the technology exists so the hot sun can keep the ice cold year-round. The opportunity also exists for an investor to make his or her money back, with interest, while helping to improve one of the Island’s main sports and recreation venues, according to Bob Mone of West Tisbury, a longtime supporter of the rink and former member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Owner of Mone Insurance in Vineyard Haven, Mr. Mone is looking for an investor to fund the new roof and the installation of photovoltaic cells that he said would supply over 95 percent of the arena’s energy needs.

“You rarely see an opportunity to donate to a good cause and get your money back with interest,” Mr. Mone said in an interview with The Times. “When I first saw the numbers, I thought it was just too good to be true. But it’s not.”

Mr. Mone said that the investor would be able to recoup his loan, which will be in the neighborhood of $1.6 million, with interest ranging from four to six percent over ten years, through a combination of tax benefits estimated at $806,196 after six years and proceeds from the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) expected to generate $642,834 over seven years.

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, RECS are tradeable energy commodities that require 1 megawatt hour of electricity be generated from an eligible renewable energy resource. RECS can be sold or traded at auction once a year. The investor will own the solar array and completely control the funds it generates.

“Right now, we’re leaning towards Bennett Electric to do the solar work,” Mr. Mone said. “They’re the low bid and they want to put the photovoltaic cells on the roof, which will cost less than putting them on a separate canopy, and would make the permitting process a lot simpler.”

The environment will also benefit from the MVA renovation. “I really want the rink to go green,” Mr. Mone said. “Currently it has one of the biggest carbon footprints on the Vineyard. By keeping the energy costs in check, it will also help provide long-term financial security for the rink.”

Financial stability is an ongoing issue for the MVA. Like many public rinks of the 1960s and 1970s, the MVA grew in stages — pieces and parts were added over the years, when funds allowed. Mr. Mone and his wife, Gayle, were among the volunteers who built the first incarnation of the MVA in 1973, when Islanders laid the pipe and created an ice surface that was cleaned with a small plow on a Jeep. Side boards were added soon after, and later a roof. The MVA became a year-round facility in 1992 when side walls were added, making it a fully enclosed rink.

Family responds to tragedy

Ryan Mone, Mr. Mone’s youngest son who was a senior stand-out on the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School hockey team, died in a car accident on New Year’s Eve, 1998. The following year, the Mones began a drive to improve the MVA facilities, raising funds to replace the flimsy plywood dressing rooms with heated locker rooms and showers.

That the MVA has flourished is the result of the Mones’ desire to memorialize Ryan, and the effect their story had on Bob Levine, a summer resident based in Colorado, who read about the Mones in a local paper and went on to underwrite major MVA improvements. These days the rink bustles nine months a year with high school hockey, amateur hockey leagues, figure skating, and youth instructional camps and youth hockey tournaments, including the annual Ryan Mone memorial tournament. But the roof leaks are only going to get worse, and the electricity bill is only going to get bigger until the new roof and solar panels are in place.

“We want to get this project done as soon as possible,” Mr. Mone said. “Once we get the funding, we could have it done in six months.”

Auction tonight

Raising money for the MVA is a family affair for the Mones. Their oldest son, Jon Mone, a former MVRHS hockey stand-out, and executive producer of the hit movie “Ted,” is providing a walk-on role in “Ted 2” as an auction item at tonight’s Ice Savours, to be emceed by comedian Lenny Clarke. Other auction items include a sunset sail and cocktails on Nat Benjamin’s schooner Charlotte, paella for 10 from Kitchen Porch catering, two tickets to the PGA championship in Florida, four tickets to a Bruins game with a tour of the NBC live feed truck, four tickets to the October 5 Patriots game against the Cincinnati Bengals, rounds of golf at Farm Neck, Mink Meadows, and Vineyard Golf Club, and fishing with “Living it” charters. The event will be held at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, from 6 to 9 pm. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served and the live auction begins at 7:15. Tickets are $100. For more information, call 509-693-4438.

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Longtime arena director Kurt Mundt, seen here in this 2010 photo, was laid off in a cost-cutting move. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Facing rising operating costs and declining use, the Martha’s Vineyard Arena has laid off longtime arena director Kurt Mundt, leaving the rink with only one full-time employee. The 15-member volunteer board has assumed responsibility for day to day operations, including accounting, booking ice time, cleaning, and maintenance.

Jim Kelleher, president of the board of directors, confirmed the details of the change when contacted by The Times Wednesday. The arena board made no formal announcement of the layoffs.

“We are financially very strapped,” Mr. Kelleher said in a phone interview with The Times. “The cost to operate the place has gone up, with utilities, and we are badly in need of a new roof. We had to cut back.”

The Martha's Vineyard Arena is now 40 years old.
The Martha’s Vineyard Arena is now 40 years old.

Scott Lively, vice-president of the board, said the arena ran a deficit of approximately $50,000 in its previous fiscal year, on a projected budget of approximately $450,000. He said the organization expects to run a deficit again this year, but the board won’t know the extent of the loss until it closes the arena books at the end of June.

Mr. Kelleher and Mr. Lively declined to detail how much the organization spends on employee salaries and benefits.

The directors said increases in the cost of electricity, used to cool the rink and maintain the ice surface, as well as increases in the cost of propane, used to dehumidify the building, have put a strain on the operating budget.

“We burn close to $100,000 in electricity per year,” Mr. Lively said.

The largest source of revenue for the arena are charitable donations, anchored by its annual August fundraiser, Ice Savours. That event raised $151,000 last summer, according to Mr. Lively. The arena also gets income from fees for ice time and from sponsors who buy advertising signs inside the building.

The board officers said the 40-year-old building is in dire need of a new, insulated roof, estimated to cost $400,000. He said the organization has raised about two-thirds of the money necessary. The directors say they hope to add a snack bar, which could generate revenue from the sale of food and rental fees, as a place for birthday parties and social gatherings, according to the organization’s most recent newsletter. Most of the fundraising efforts, which normally pay for a large part of the operating costs, will be dedicated to the roof and other building maintenance.

“We can’t wait any more,” Mr. Kelleher said. “Once we get the roof done, and that capital expenditure is behind us, that money will go to personnel.”

The directors said the rink has kept the cost of ice time low, among the lowest rates in the region. While grants have helped youth hockey leagues grow in the past year, figure skating and other programs are not as popular as they were in the past. Tight school athletic budgets for off-Island high school teams that once regularly traveled to the Island, have also affected revenue.

“Where it used to be a busy rink, with the recession, towns don’t particularly want to come here on the weekend,” Mr. Lively said.

Mr. Kelleher said the cost-cutting moves have not affected any programs at the arena.

The 26th annual ice show, presented by the Martha’s Vineyard Figure Skating Club, is scheduled for Sunday, April 6. After that, the arena will close for the season,and reopen in mid-July.

The directors said the financial strain has been tough on the arena staff and volunteers.

“Nobody wants to see somebody out of work,” Mr. Kelleher said. “It’s tough. We’ve got to turn this ship around. Everybody is rolling up their sleeves. We’re doing everything we can to get this place solvent. I think in another year, we’ll be in good shape.”

Mr. Mundt did not respond to a phone message asking for comment.