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Rink in line for name change

By Marion Davis, Staff Writer | 09/18/2004

FleetRink.jpg

Photo by Richard Benjamin

By the time Rollerbladers give way to figure skaters, the Fleet Skating Center will have a new name. Weeks before the signs on Fleet bank branches change in December, downtown

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It's often touted as being larger than the rink at Rockefeller Centre in NYC. For what it's worth. :blush:

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FleetSkate001.jpg

FleetSkate002.jpg

Images From: fleetskating.com

Va. company chosen to run rink

The city wants the Fleet Skating Center to be profitable year-round.

BY GREGORY SMITH

Journal Staff Writer | Thursday, November 18, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- City officials have picked a Virginia company that specializes in managing ice-skating rinks to operate the Fleet Skating Center in front of City Hall.

On Tuesday, the city Board of Contract and Supply awarded the contract to Rink Management Services Co., of Mechanicsville, Va., and passed up a bid by a homegrown company.

It is now up to Mayor David N. Cicilline's office to negotiate a contract.

Officials are counting on Rink Management Services to keep the rink as busy as possible in the warm-weather months in order to make it financially self-sustaining.

With city taxpayers footing the unpaid bills, the skating center has lost money on an operating basis in four of the six years since it opened.

The skating center opened its season on Saturday, and patronage was reported as good over the weekend.

For the time being, the Providence Civic Center Authority operates the skating center with the help of Aramark, which manages the day-to-day operations of the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The authority has been in charge of the rink since late 2002. It was previously operated by the parks department.

John C. Simmons, city administration director, said Rink Management Services is the low bidder and has a fine track record.

"They came extraordinarily highly recommended" by some of their clients, he said.

Losing out is Bruno's Best LLC, of Providence, a company that was formed just in time to vie for the contract.

Bruno's Best would have had Chase Hogoboom, of Providence, serve as general manager of the skating center and Heather Grant, of East Greenwich, as program coordinator. Grant was a consultant in the development of the skating center and later served as its general manager and skating director. Hogoboom is a fundraiser and teacher at Brown University.

Rink Management Services offered to run the skating center for the rest of the current season for $35,000 and then to negotiate a five-year management contract in which it would be paid a percentage of gross revenues.

As an alternative, it offered to sign an agreement to run the facility year-round for $5,000 a month.

Bruno's Best offered to run the facility for 20 percent of the gross revenues on a five-year contract, with a proviso that it may renew for another five years at its option. If it were not required to use union labor, it would charge a lower fee.

Bruno's Best, being a new company, has no performance record on which the city can rely, Simmons said.

One aspect that must be resolved in a contract is the disposition of Civic Center Authority employees who work at the skating center and are represented by a labor union. It is unclear whether Rink Management Services would be required to hire help represented by Local 1033 of the Laborers International Union of North America.

Simmons said the current workers could be reassigned to work at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. As a cost-saving tactic, he suggested, perhaps a part-time union-represented Zamboni driver could be used at the skating center.

Making the skating center weather-proof with a cover, in winter or summer, would be a way to assure that it makes more money. The city will ask the winning bidder to consider whether a cover is advisable and what it would cost, Simmons said.

From time to time, a rented tent has been put up at the skating center for special events, but Simmons made it clear that the city would be reluctant to have the public skate under a cover.

"Part of the beauty of skating there is that it's an open-air, outdoor skating rink," he said.

When the Civic Center Authority took over the skating center, it considered covering the rink but concluded that it would be too expensive, according to Lawrence J. Lepore, authority executive director.

Buying a tent for parties would have cost $150,000, and buying a cover big enough without having support poles resting on the ice would have cost nearly $1 million, he said.

Sales of advertising and sponsorships are potential moneymakers that the city wants Rink Management Services to explore, Simmons said. Those would be limited by whatever agreements already are in place for the donors who paid to build the skating center and for Fleet Bank, which bought the naming rights.

Having the operations contract also would entitle the Virginia company to peddle food and beverages in adjacent Burnside and Biltmore parks.

From The Providence Journal

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Today I noticed that there's a Subway inside the skating center building, but I don't recall it being mentioned here before. How long has it been there?

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I think it was mentioned in the dining thread when it first opened and everyone cried about a chain going in there. From what I understand, it does quite a swift business. There used to be one on Eddy behind City Hall that closed before the Skating Center one opened.

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