Of the 10 articles discussed during the first night of Norwood's Special Town Meeting on Thursday, it was article 5 - a motion by the Board of Selectmen for the members to approve the expenditure of a $45,000 donation on traffic and financial feasibility studies on a proposed hockey rink location - that garnered the most attention.
After nearly two hours of discussion, the members approved the article.
Representatives from the Recreation in Norwood Committee began the conversation with a presentation on the process up to this point and their findings regarding the specific proposed location (the current location of the tennis courts at the Coakley Middle School), the benefits to the town and the management of the rink.
Bill Naumann (district 3) said that RINC was formed in 2003, and spent most of the next two years on a potential rink site on University Ave. The project - which was not on town-owned land and was to be privately funded - fell apart when the lead donor pulled support.
The committee discovered that the cost of land was just too much, he said. If a rink was to happen in Norwood it would have to be done on town-owned land.
The current proposal is that the tennis courts near the school be relocated and a full rink facility built in that location, using $5.6 million in funds secured from the state by Rep. John Rogers. The funds for the studies - the issue of the actual article before the Town Meeting - had been donated to the town by RINC, raised from private donations.
Naumann said that thinking in basic business terms of supply and demand, the local demand for ice space is very high in comparison to the local supply - due to the high number of local high school and youth teams as well as the fast-growing sport of women's ice hockey.
"Everybody's scrounging for the same ice," he said. "Build it and they will come."
According to the RINC presentation, the average hockey parent spends between $50-$100 a week on incidentals at and in the area of a rink, including gas, concessions, and local restaurants. With the number of kids in Norwood hockey programs, Naumann said, that's $600,000 to $1.2 million that Norwood residents are spending somewhere else when they have to travel for practices and games.
"Let's get some of that," he said.
Six registered speakers followed the RINC presentation, with another six unregistered speakers voicing concerns after that. The theme of nearly every response was concern over traffic.
Regina Noonan, from district 6, said that the traffic is already a concern in South Norwood.
"Currently we do not drive through South Norwood, we manuever," she said.
Judith Howard, Town Meeting member from district 3, gave a nostalgic speech about what Norwood used to be like, and said that this rink it is just another rushed project in an area where it doesn't belong.
"How many people really think that ice rinks are attractive in a residential area?" she said.
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Michael Lyons, said that the Board agrees that there are unanswered questions on the location which is why they went forward with the proposal to form a Skating Rink Study Committee of Town Officials and Board members to examine any available locations in town.
The committee was formed after proposal by RINC member Mike Thornton at the Nov. 6 Board of Selectmen meeting, and includes General Manager John Carroll, Selectman Allan Howard, Recreation Director Jerry Miller, Director of Public Works Mark Ryan, Recreation in Norwood Committee member and Norwood Nuggets President Bill Naumann, Assistant Town Engineer Andrew Murphy, and School Committee member John Badger.
"We have to look at all other options in town," Lyons said.
There will be a meeting of this committee on Nov. 28 at 5:30 at the Civic, which is completely open to the public, he said.
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