2015-01-23 / Community

No new ads for Waterhouse Center

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The Kennebunk Board of Selectmen has decided to hold off on any new advertising campaigns designed to defray operating costs of the recently opened Waterhouse Center.

The open-air pavilion on Main Street, which is used as a public skating rink during the winter months, was made possible by a $1.5 million endowment created by Geraldine Waterhouse to foster youth activities. Additionally, the town raised more than $630,000 from fundraising drives and direct donations to fund construction of the site.

Waterhouse’s gift pays for operating costs during the skating season, but Town Manager Barry Tibbetts has ballparked that it might cost as much as $9,000 per year to cover sewer, water and electricity during the rest of the year. Selectmen also hope to repay $130,000 taken from a downtown tax increment financing (TIF) district fund to help pay for the center.

To help cover those expenses — given that the goal is to run the complex at no cost to taxpayers — selectmen had considered a bevy of advertising schemes, including the use of so-called “go-go lights” to flash sponsor logos on the ice (or the concrete, during the summer), putting ads on the streaming video coverage of the rink, selling banners to hang from the rafters, and even charging $30 for Zamboni rides.

A three-person subcommittee, made up of Selectmen Chuff, Searles and Chairman Kevin Donovan, met Dec. 15 to debate advertising rules, returning a verdict at the Jan. 13 against additional advertising for the center’s inaugural season.

“In other words, we are not going to do the go-go lights and we are not going to do anything else. We are going to keep things as elegantly simplistic as possible,” said Tibbetts.

Currently, Kennebunk Savings has contributed $75,000 to have the company’s logo embossed in the ice at the center line for three years. Duffy’s Tavern and Northeast Coating Technologies have also paid $50,000 each to have their logos put in the ice and on the Zambonis.

Selectmen decided against the suggested $30 fee for zamboni rides. However, when establishing safety rules and a waiver form at the Jan. 13 meeting for zamboni passengers, the board agreed to charge “no more than $12” for hats which read, “I rode the Zamboni.”

The $12 fee will go toward covering the costs of the hats, because, in the words of board Chairman Kevin Donovan, “They’ve already been purchased.”

In other Waterhouse-related news at the Jan. 13 meeting, the board awarded two of four available vendor permits at the center to the only two applicants — Aubrey’s End Foundation and Teresa Andreoli, who does business as the Arundel Ice Cream Shop.

“Is the ice cream lady planning on selling ice cream in January?” asked Selectman Albert Searles.

“We talked about that,” Tibbetts said. “There is an ice cream that has a hot mixture to it, that’s kind of spicy, like if you were to think in terms of a hot pepper or something. There is ice cream like that. So, she’s debating whether she’ll do that or not.”

Aubrey’s End will reportedly stick to coffee, hot chocolate and snacks, said Tibbetts.

Tibbetts said he does not believe the $800 fee for the yearlong mobile vendor license — not including a nonrefundable $50 application fee and a $150 required victualer’s license — factored into the failure to draw applicants for all four available spots. For one thing, he noted, selectmen have previously voted to allow the fee to be paid over time, rather than in one lump sum, up front.

Finally, selectmen reported strong sales in the “buy-abrick” program, in which the town will sell engraved paving stones at rates from $100 to $1,000, to be installed this spring.

At the Dec. 9 selectmen’s meeting, the board tittered at Tibbetts’ explanation of buy-a-brick potential until be relented with an almost sheepish, “OK, I’ll stop pushing that.”

That, coupled with strong comments from selectmen against over-commercializing the Waterhouse property, led to a report in the Jan. 9 Post that selectmen were not hip to the bricks.

“I don’t where in the world he [the reporter] got that idea,” said Searles, at the Jan. 13 meeting.

Any laughter, he intimated, had more to do with Tibbetts’ hard sell of the program, including references to “all the fun things you can do with a brick,” and not a lack of support from selectmen.

“I bought one myself,” Donovan said, “so that’s not wishywashy in my house.”

In fact, Tibbetts said nearly $40,000 worth of bricks have been sold so far. Cluff said a renewed push for brick sales could be undertaken in the spring, to be followed by a decision on whether to use those proceeds for ongoing operating expenses, or to repay the TIF.

Selectmen said they will wait until after the snow flies next year, when they can judge exactly how much it cost to run the Waterhouse Center during the warmer months of the year, before deciding on whether to pursue additional advertising, or other revenue streams for the site.

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