2013-10-04 / Front Page

Pavilion plan revealed

Selectmen to weigh proposal for youth center and skating rink
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


An architect’s rendering depicts the proposed youth endowment center pavilion at 51 Main St. in Kennebunk. Geraldine Waterhouse, a Kennebunk resident, has donated $1.5 million toward the construction of the youth center, which would include a pavilion and an ice skating rink. The proposal will be presented to the board of selectmen and the town for approval in October. 
(Courtesy photo) An architect’s rendering depicts the proposed youth endowment center pavilion at 51 Main St. in Kennebunk. Geraldine Waterhouse, a Kennebunk resident, has donated $1.5 million toward the construction of the youth center, which would include a pavilion and an ice skating rink. The proposal will be presented to the board of selectmen and the town for approval in October. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — Geraldine Waterhouse fondly remembers what it was like to trudge through the snow in Kennebunk when she was a young girl and ice skate with her friends.

And now, some 60 years later, in an effort to preserve those memories and help local youth create their own experiences, Waterhouse has donated the necessary funds to construct a permanent ice rink in downtown Kennebunk.

In September, Waterhouse, along with daughter, Paige Herr, set up the Waterhouse Youth Endowment Program and included a donation of $1.5 million for the construction of the youth endowment center, namely the ice skating rink at 51 Main St..

Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, who was elected as a board member of the endowment program, presented a first reading of the plans to the board of selectmen Tuesday, Sept. 24.

The proposed 60-by-90-foot ice rink would be open from December until mid-March.

In the summer it would operate as an in-line skating rink, said Tibbetts. The pavilion is proposed to span 100 feet by 120 feet and to be open to the public all four seasons for a range of activities.

Waterhouse has been summering in the area since 1944, and began living in Kennebunk full time in 1966.

“She wants to help support the downtown and do something for the youth. She loves the changes that we’ve made to the downtown in the last few years,” said Tibbetts, who spoke for Waterhouse, as she couldn’t be present.

The blanketing objective, said Tibbetts, who read from a written statement composed by Waterhouse, is to “enhance the lives of local and non-local youth alike by providing recreational and educational opportunities in a safe and healthy environment in the downtown.”

The proposal, which will be something similar to a brick and clapboard multi-purpose structure with four open sides, would be adjacent to the ice rink.

“So far we have seven major categories of activities that could be hosted in some capacity in the endowment center,” Tibbetts said, including anything from arts and theater, dance, music, sport events and competition events, educational events, and town events such as the Harvest Festival or the annual Christmas tree lighting.

Since the Mobil station was demolished, the open space has been used for the farmers market, craft fairs and a winter ice-skating rink.

It has been a part of every downtown festival, said Tibbetts and its central location is of major interest.

Tibbetts also noted that in June of 2012, in a referendum vote, residents voted to retain the lot at 51 Main St. for town use, as opposed to selling it and allow development on the site.

Waterhouse’s donation of $1.5 million is anticipated to provide about $60,000 to $75,000 in annual funding for the center. This money would primarily go toward the ice rink, said Tibbetts. An estimated $70,000 from private donors would fund the construction of the pavilion.

Other areas where funds would be pulled include Route 1 TIF money – approximately $301,000 – and )the remaining Cousens School apartment funds), which amounts to $411,000.

“I think the potential is there to do this really very inexpensively,” Tibbetts said before assuring the voters through the airways they are trying to facilitate this project without increasing taxes or mil rates. “We want to make the buildings self-sustaining.”

“I think it’s very reachable for us to get there without having to increase taxes or the mil rate or go back to taxpayers,” Tibbetts said.

Community help has also been solicited in such areas as painting, plumbing, contracting and construction work, even ice maintenance, said Tibbetts.

As the presentation concluded, Tibbetts said, “I did some poking around asking some other towns if there is anything like this in the state, and I haven’t been able to find anything that’s set up like this for families and the community,” Tibbetts said.

After Tibbetts took his seat, Al Searles, chairman, thanked the Waterhouse family for their generous donation, but spoke for the rest of the board when he voiced concern about the not-yet-clear cost of construction.

“To do or not to do the pavilion? And if you do it, how to fund it?” Searles said. “We don’t really know what pavilion would cost because we don’t really know what it is,” he said.

Selectman David Spofford added, “I just don’t want the public to think this is a slam dunk from the board as a whole, yet. There are just almost too many moving parts and ideas to even consider this a first reading.”

In a written statement, Waterhouse said, “This endowment will allow all youth in town the joy of free skating. Kennebunk is a lovely community, supporting our youth in Kennebunk is a pleasure, honor and joy for our family.”

The endowment plan will be presented to the public and to the board of selectmen for approval in October. If the proposal is approved, construction will begin in April 2014.

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