Northeast Kingdom community rec center faces foreclosure - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Northeast Kingdom community rec center faces foreclosure

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DERBY, Vt. -

Indoor Recreation of Orleans County or IROC is a 54,000-square-foot fitness facility completed in 2005 that serves Orleans and Northern Essex counties, 14 communities in all. There is a multipurpose sports arena that had originally been planned as a hockey rink, pool and plenty of workout space. It is the place where people come to recreate and socialize. But that is about to end, because from the start there were financial problems.

"We started in the hole from day one. When this place was built, it was over $3 million in debt. And we have gotten somewhat out of the hole, but we can almost see the top of the hole, but we are not quite there yet," said Phil White of IROC.

So, the operating budget was slashed and more fundraising efforts launched in the past two years, including a thrift store being run in the lobby.

"So, we started it small and its generating about $1,000 a month in additional income we didn't have before, and it's staffed by volunteer Pam Lads," White said.

IROC has left no stone unturned when it comes to fundraising, from the thrift store in the lobby to the used book sale, but the $1.4 million financial nut has proven just too big to crack. Time has run out for IROC. The last day of operation will be Easter Sunday.

News of the closing has hit hard.

"We are heartbroken; we have come here every day this month, every day," said Megan Lagasse who works out at IROC.

Sharon Stewart is a fitness instructor who volunteers at IROC.

"Yeah, well, I have been an instructor for 30 years and it's sad. What do you do? I teach classes all over town, but I have grown up here, my kids have grown up here, the community is here. It is very sad," Stewart said.

The Vermont Economic Development Agency or VEDA even looked into refinancing IROC, but the application was rejected.

WCAX News contacted Bill Stenger at Jay Peak who is spearheading a big economic development job for Newport about including an IROC bailout. He told us, "The IROC financial formula is not a successful one and we cannot provide a bailout."

IROC even added solar panels to cut down on the cost of propane. The solar vendor called WCAX News Friday afternoon to say he has yet to be paid for his work.

"Once the doors shut, we lose control of our fate. So, our hope is if there is any way to come up with the financing necessary to allow us or somebody to make a good faith offer to the bank to buy out the note, that we could keep going," White said.

But it looks like there will be no Easter miracle for IROC, despite all the efforts.

White says even If IROC closes, planned summer events will go on as scheduled.

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