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Woodstock Arena Gets Reprieve

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VPR/ Charlotte Albright
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The cash-strapped Woodstock Union Arena, a popular sports complex owned by the High School, has received a short term reprieve that will allow it to stay open. 

Woodstock resident Greg Camp says the arena, which includes a popular hockey rink, is a valuable magnet for families living in Woodstock, moving there, or tuitioning their children to its schools.

“It’s done that primarily through hundreds and hundreds of hours of ice time that host the teams of this school district, meaning the high school teams, the youth hockey teams…but also adult leagues, learn to skate, adaptive skating, school phys ed classes, and programs of all types,” Camp said.

But the Woodstock Union Arena has been running in the red for years and now its board of directors says it needs $125,000 to get on solid footing. They want to dip into a $450,000 endowment set up to maintain the Arena without tax dollars.

The Arena board’s proposal to use the money has to be approved by the endowment’s trustees and by the school board.  The matter was taken up at a meeting this week.

Everyone who spoke agreed that the Arena is a valuable resource, but the sticking point is how to bail it out. Rachel Benoit, a Trustee for the endowment, said the money held there is meant to cover future maintenance—not pay off past debts.  

“So it is the Trustees’ recommendation that we do not accept the proposal as currently presented. We would be willing to have the Board enter into discussions to talk about other possibilities, but $125,000, we really feel that is over and above what the endowment would support at this time,” she announced.

It wasn’t easy for three different  boards to reach consensus, even though the Arena Board Chair, Ginny Eames, warned that the doors could close in two weeks without at least some financial help.

In the end, the School Board sided with the Trustees, turning down her request for $125,000, but leaving the door open for a compromise amount that would keep the lights on, as Eames put it, until the new season brings in more money for ice time. That, she said after the meeting, was a huge relief.

“I was a little worried but I really did not think that they would let us go dark,” Eames said.

The School Board’s new Arena subcommittee will meet soon with the facility’s management  to try to hammer out a solution, at least for the short term.