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No Movement on Petersen Pool and Ice Rink Deal

Tugboat Capt. Julius Petersen left money for a pool to Braintree. The fund grew over the decades to $2 million.

Mayor Sullivan at the opening of the Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park in Braintree. Credit: Joe Markman
Mayor Sullivan at the opening of the Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park in Braintree. Credit: Joe Markman
Braintree youth hockey parents, looking ahead to next season, are wondering where their children will play.

Randolph may be closing Zapustas Ice Arena after it has gone under-utilized, and Braintree has had long-standing plans to build an ice rink along with an indoor pool at the high school, but that project stalled after the mayor selected a developer last spring.

On Thursday evening, youth hockey participants will bring their concerns to the Town Council. Mayor Joseph Sullivan said he will be in attendance, and that he understands their anxiety.

"This has taken longer than I want," Sullivan said. "But I'm focused on it. We’re close but we’re not there yet.”

Last July at Watson Park, Braintree celebrated the opening of the Petersen Splash Pad, which utilized a portion of the money tugboat Capt. Julius Petersen left to the town 50 years ago. 

Sullivan, after unveiling a new vision for the much fought-over project in December 2010, had originally hoped to break ground on the athletic complex at Braintree High School in 2012 and have it operating by the end of 2013.

The town offered bidders $1.5 million from a fund set up in Petersen's name after he died in 1963. Petersen originally put aside $65,000, growing over the years to more than $2 million.

Sullivan chose a developer last year from two bidders whose plans to design, construct and operate the pool and ice rink were deemed unsatisfactory by an evaluation committee consisting of town officials and community members.

The town remains in negotiations with the selected developer – Quincy attorney Robert W. Norton – with the main sticking point still being the balancing of construction costs and liability between Norton and the town, Sullivan said.

"We have to be careful about overextending ourselves on a skating rink and having a liability that we didn’t fully measure," the mayor said.

Sullivan said he is concerned that it is taking this long to make a deal, but that he is confident it will get done.

Yet Sullivan also said he also does not want to be "the boy who cried wolf" and establish an unrealistic timeframe for the project. He said going back out to bid is an option, but not yet one the town is considering.

Other options also remain.

Legislation signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick two years ago allowing a "design-build" approach for the athletic complex also allows for the developer to move ahead with either the rink or pool first.

The rink could not, however, be constructed first using any of the $1.5 million from the amount Capt. Petersen gave to the town 50 years ago unless infrastructure common to both the rink and pool were included.

A pool could be built first or on its own, but the rink cannot be built altogether separately from the pool.

Sullivan said he must prioritize how much taxpayer money goes into the project, especially with other capital needs such as school space requiring attention. 

"I fully understand the desire of the hockey parents," he said. "I'm with them. But that desire has to balanced with making good decisions financially.”    

The council meeting, rescheduled because of the snow storm from Tuesday, will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Town Hall.

Correction: Randolph officials have yet to decide on the closing of the Zapustas rink. 
John Sanford January 23, 2014 at 08:44 AM
This seems like a whole lot of nothing is going to happen. The children of this town and the hundreds of hockey players need a place to play. I don't understand why the Town of Braintree can't build it themselves. They are missing a great opportunity moneywise. Ice Rentals, Hockey Tournaments would make Braintree a destination, selling advertising and naming rights. My kids did play BYH hockey and this is a facility that is needed. No more delays Mayor Sullivan, you promised make it happen.
Randolph Massachusetts January 23, 2014 at 09:40 AM
It would have been wise to talk to Randolph before announcing the rink was going to close. No such determination has been made yet. The rink receives ample use and is operating at a profit. Randolph and Braintree have a number of shared interests and any such decision will not be made in haste.
Joseph Markman (Editor) January 23, 2014 at 09:49 AM
You are right, I apologize for jumping the gun on the closing. There is a correction now.
Brian F Hickman January 23, 2014 at 10:13 AM
Developers are in this to "MAKE MONEY". They don't care who pays for it as long as the money flows. Its like this in every construction project that the government pays for. The mayor is "On The Money" when he says u have to be careful how much taxpayer money goes into this. Overcrowd is a "HUGE" problem in town that is not goig away!
Matt January 23, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Hickman. You think the town is going to be overcrowded because of a hockey rink? Still smoking the good stuff I see.
John Sanford January 23, 2014 at 01:06 PM
I'm not really sure what Mr. Is talking about over crowding? There are a few new rinks in easter Massachusetts that have great operating systems and have raised money in a creative way to pay it off. Falmouth Youth Arena is a nice facility that uses a combination of green ttechnology, Solar panels on the roof a heat reflecting roof surface, ect... If you go to their website they are even selling naming rights to just about everything in the place. If you total it up it is close to the cost was to build it. 5.5M So I don't even know why this is a problem, Have Braintree build it on our own and it will be paid for in about 15 years. We run a golf course also so its not as if we couldn't manage it with the right people. Finally if Randolph rink turns a profit would be another reason we could do ithat
Brian F Hickman January 23, 2014 at 02:32 PM
Its all about money matt! Its called taxpayers money being used above the Captains money. You seem to be lacking common sense with some of the dumb statements u make. Sign your name for now on like i do! Stand up and be counted for what u believe matt!
Brian F Hickman January 23, 2014 at 02:38 PM
By the way John. I am a big Hockey Guy! My daughters brother in law is a Marshfield kid who plays with the P-Bruins. I just want to make sure that it is done right, just like the Mayor. Thats the smart way of doing it John! No doubt we need one.
Matt January 23, 2014 at 03:17 PM
Yea it does have to do with tax payers money. And yea the town loves to spend money. But what does a hockey rink have to do with over crowding?
jennifer lynch January 24, 2014 at 09:23 AM
Any update on the meeting last night?
Joseph Markman (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 09:27 AM
Working on it for today, Monday morning latest. Sullivan said mostly same as above, but did say that Randolph Manager Dave Murphy said Zapustas will be open next season. I'm working on confirming that and writing up youth hockey's concerns as relayed by Tom McDonough.
John Sanford January 24, 2014 at 01:18 PM
Thanks Joe For staying on top of it. I don't think the Mayor answered anything. The fact the Randolph is staying open only give him relief from his promises.
kim. mitchell January 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM
No one is thinking about the kids of this town. Its a shame.

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