According to their website, The Skating Club of Boston (SCOB) was founded in 1912 by Boston’s great figure skating patrons. Since that time, the Club has worked tirelessly to promote excellence in the sport of figure skating throughout the U.S. and beyond. Skating Club members had a hand in founding the U.S. Figure Skating organization, and in the 1930’s, built one of the first club-owned indoor skating facilities.
Nearly 100 years later, the club has partnered with the town of Norwood to construct a new skating facility that will house one Olympic-size and two NHL-size skating rinks.
The multi-million-dollar project will feature a sports injury prevention and strength training center, dance studio, locker rooms, coaches lounge, lobby café, trophy room, library, meeting rooms, and an apparel and equipment store.
Construction commenced on May 13, 2019, at 750 University Ave. in Norwood,
and has since been a topic a major controversy. Specifically, in regards to how the rink will divide its ice time.
“Norwood Nuggets Youth Hockey is not opposed to the Skating Club of Boston coming to Norwood,’ Norwood Nuggets Youth Hockey (NNYH) Board of Directors member William Naumann noted. “Everyone understands that their focus is figure skating, ice dancing, etc., and that the state of the art facility they are building will benefit the town and the region in a number of ways. But, the SCOB voluntarily signed an agreement with the Norwood Board of Selectman (BoS) which clearly states a minimum of 22 hours for NNYH during its hockey season.”
This agreement, also known as the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement (PILOT), stipulates that it “shall be valid and binding when so signed by both parties” and was signed by Joe Blount the President of SCOB, and all five Town Selectmen.
At this time, however, the SCOB has dropped the number of hours allocated to NNYH from 22 to 16, as well as only dedicating these hours to the weekends.
“[This leaves the Norwood Nuggets] in the same state that they have been in for 60 years- scrambling to find ample weeknight ice for the kids to practice” Naumann said.
Selectman William Plasko countered this interpretation.
“Because the SCOB is a non-profit organization they are exempt from paying property taxes; taxes that the town uses to pay for essential services,” Plasko said. “So we approached them about a voluntary PILOT payment/agreement. The agreement, as explained under state law, is not binding on the SCOB but is completely voluntary; the Town has no ability to enforce it.”
Although Selectman Plasko rationalized that the town has no ability to enforce this agreement, a major piece to the puzzle is the SCOB’s efforts to obtain a “full” liquor license. Within the PILOT, it conditions that “the Town agrees to use diligent efforts to assist SCOB in obtaining a full liquor license that will authorize the serving of wine, beer, and all spirits at the skating facility.”
A condition that the BoS are still actively honoring even though other aspects of the PILOT have been infringed upon.
“The issue at hand is that the SCOB has violated this agreement but the Board of Selectmen are tolerating the the violation and are still supporting the SCOB’s efforts to obtain a full liquor license,” Naumann said. “NNYH feels that the BoS should withdraw their support of a liquor license until such time as the SCOB makes good on their commitment to the children of the NNYH program.”
This rink time was going to help the program, who regularly practices at rinks from Brockton, to Raynham, Hyde Park, Milton, and West Roxbury, not to mention games played in Plymouth, Falmouth, Stoneham, and Boxborough etc., and finally have a home rink.
It would keep the commutes shorter for families, and give the program the opportunity to develop in its own space. This is extremely important to the program as it is the younger generations that will continue to cultivate the sport.
Other youth sports in Norwood already have designated fields to play, and it seemed that this was finally the solution NNYH was waiting for. But in the final hours, the metaphorical rug was pulled out from under them.
This leaves the question- why where the hours cut in the first place?
Plasko explained that after the PILOT was signed, the SCOB was approached by an organization that trains figure skaters. They have 26 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships and five-time bronze medalists at the World Synchronized Skating Championships. This group represents the Club’s core mission, and the Club stated that they could only help out our local skaters until these organizations signed up.
It seems that at this time, none of the parties will be approaching an agreement, and it is ultimately the children and programs involved that will suffer the consequences.