August 26, 2010 – It may be cold inside the New England Sports Center, a five ice-rink complex in Marlborough, but business is hot. Fueled by the growth of youth hockey and the Figure Skating Club of Boston expanding its operations in MetroWest, construction is underway for complex’s sixth full-sized ice rink, plus an auxiliary practice rink that is set to be completed this fall.
The center, which is located at the intersection of Interstates 495 and 290, is home to dozens of youth, high school and college hockey teams, as well as skating teams, individual lessons and tournaments. The rink opened in 1994 with four rinks and added a fifth in 2004.
“We really haven’t seen too much of a downturn (because of the economy),” said owner Larue Renfroe. “Obviously people are watching their money and it is an expensive sport, but I think both hockey and skating are nice family-oriented sports that people have always loved in New England.”
Renfroe also owns Assurance Technology Corp. in Carlisle, and the Providence Bruins, the minor league hockey team of the Boston Bruins.
Construction began on the about 20,000-square-foot expansion in June and is expected to be completed by the end of October. In total, the complex will be about 200,000 square feet.
Renfroe is acting as his own general contractor, hiring out subcontractors, mostly from the MetroWest region, to do various parts of the work.
“We’ve found the market to be pretty competitive,” he said. “What we’ve really noticed is that the contractors are ready to start immediately once we’ve awarded the work.”
He’s already worked with ABRN of Marlborough to pour the foundation of the new building and some of the steel structures are in place.
One major reason the center is expanding is because of the Skating Club of Boston’s entrance into the MetroWest market.
The club has a small practice facility in Brighton, but Pam Bohen, office manager for the MetroWest satellite office, said the club needed more space. The New England Sports Center seemed like a centralized location that offered plenty of space, she said.
Membership has tripled in the year-and-a-half since the club opened, she said.
Last fall the center began offering skating classes – which you do not have to be a member to participate in – and began with about 60 students. It grew to more than 140 by the end of the winter. Bohen expects the numbers to continue to grow.
“We’re expecting to double each of our classes we offer this year,” she said.
Becker College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, both in Worcester, also use the skating center as home ice for their collegiate hockey programs and the Worcester Sharks use the facility if their home ice at the DCU Center in Worcester is occupied.
This story originally appeared here