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Vt. rink aims to ice out energy bills - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. rink aims to ice out energy bills

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WOODSTOCK, Vt. -

The ice is packed for public skate in Woodstock with both beginners and those who use this community rink every week.

"It's just a good place for people to come and have fun when they have nothing else to do in Woodstock," said Trevor White of Woodstock.

A group of girls from Connecticut are visiting their grandmother in nearby Quechee.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: What do you like about skating?

Margaret Gustafson/Connecticut: Skating.

Adam Sullivan: What about it?

Margaret Gustafson: Being with family.

"There is a lot of support for the rink," said Harold Mayhew, the president of the board of directors for Union Arena. "But for a nonprofit with a shrinking youth population, it can be challenging."

Meaning it costs a lot to keep this place running. So, a few years back, the board got together and started a fundraising campaign to overhaul the building. Phase one, which was just completed, revamped the refrigeration machine which makes the ice nice and hard. Phase two will tackle the AC and heating, and phase three will install solar, possibly on the roof, which also boasts a new cooling tower. They've raised about one-third of their $1.4 million goal. But those behind the project say savings, in the long run, will be worth it. And the president of the board for Union Arena knows what he is talking about. He designs rinks for a living. His work includes Kreitzberg Arena at Norwich University.

"The operating budget is about a half million dollars a year and about a third of that is energy costs for electricity and fuel," Mayhew said.

Phase four will tie all the improvements together, hopefully in two to three years’ time. Officials say it will make the rink "net zero," meaning no energy bill at all. It would become the first rink in North America to accomplish that goal.

"Hey, it's only good if it's going to be good for the environment, right? No reason to kill any more trees or put any more pollutants out there," said Darren Gacicia, a visitor.

"To be the first rink in the country to do that would be incredible for our community and just the rink in general," White said.

A rink looking to break new ground when it comes to indoor ice.

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