Civic Center rink renovations underway
SARANAC LAKE — As Peter Dimmig walked around inside the shell of the Saranac Lake Civic Center ice rink building on Monday, where construction crews were expanding the rink facility, he thought about all the volunteers over the past 50 years who worked to make this renovation a reality.
Dimmig is the project director for the Civic Center. He said this improvement to the building is the culmination of a long history of volunteerism. The community built the rink in the 1970s, and now they’re taking it to the next level as they prepare the ice to host the 2023 FISU World University Games in January.
The Civic Center leaders are again turning to the community for millions of dollars in funding. Dimmig said with construction going on, people can see the direct results of their donations. He said the money isn’t sitting in a bank somewhere, its being used to build a community-funded center.
The building itself is structurally sound, but the inside is being upgraded and additions are being made.
Demolition started in March after the ice was out from the skating season. Dimmig said it was all volunteers doing the demolition. He was one of them and said it was fun. In around two weeks, they had torn down almost everything, but he said they weren’t just throwing it in the dumpster.
They’ve saved as much material as they can to use in the new building. In a corner of the rink there are piles of hockey glass sheets, plywood from the walls, siding from the outside and the disassembled boards from the bleachers.
Dimmig said reusing materials means they’re spending the money they have as wisely as possible.
“We’re being good stewards of the gifts (the community) gave us,” Dimmig said.
Luck Builders were there on Monday, bolting together the steel frame for a wrap-around addition — a new lobby in the front and locker rooms on the side.
The front and sides of the building will get new siding, but they’ll use some old siding on the back. Dimmig said when they removed the siding they uncovered the original Civic Center logo painted on the building. People driving by on Ampersand Avenue can see it for now, before it’s covered again.
The building is the largest open space building in town, Dimmig said.
The new building will feature a second-floor mezzanine, LED lighting, heating in the stands, new bus parking to de-clutter the parking lot and a new ice plant, which cools the concrete floor of the rink to create ice.
That new ice plant is a big upgrade. It will cost a couple hundred thousand dollars, Dimmig said. The previous ice plant was on its “last legs.”
The ice gets a lot of use, he said. It’s home ice for the Saranac Lake Pee Wee Hockey Association, the Saranac Lake Placid high school hockey team and the Paul Smith’s College Bobcats men’s and women’s hockey teams. It also hosts curling, public skates and the occasional Can-Am tournament.
Dimmig said construction is on track to be completed by December.
On Jan. 12, it will be the site of the 2023 FISU World University Games curling competition.
Dimmig said the Civic Center board has wanted to make improvements to the facility for a while, and the University Games made it possible.
When Lake Placid won the World University Games bid in 2018, the state Economic Development Council asked if the Civic Center could host curling. It couldn’t at the time, but this construction is meant to bring it up to snuff.
After negotiations with the state, New York offered a 75% matching grant through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. The state has promised $4.5 million toward the $6 million original project cost, if Civic Center volunteers were able to raise the rest of the $1.5 million themselves.
Dimmig said they’ve raised $1.7 million so far. But costs have also risen due to inflation. The new estimated project cost is $7 million, and Dimmig said the Civic Center is asking people to continue donations to keep up with rising costs.
The project has gotten recent funds in the form of grants from the Adirondack Foundation’s Generous Acts fund for $20,000 and from the Cloudsplitter Foundation for $100,000. Dimmig said Community Bank and NBT Bank have also recently made sizeable donations.
The project got an early boost last year with a $500,000 gift from retired Goldman Sachs partner Barrie Wigmore and his wife Dee Dee, who have a camp here. There have been other big gifts, including $200,000 from Stewart’s Shops in October.
Donations can be made by credit card on the Civic Center’s website saranaclakeciviccenter.org or by check to SLCC P.O. Box 1040, Saranac Lake, NY 12983. Last year, Pee Wee Hockey Association Inc. transferred ownership of the building to Saranac Lake Civic Center, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Dimmig said some choose to give monthly gifts, which helps, because that allows the center to go out and get grants, knowing it can match contributions with promised money.