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Hagerstown invests in ice rink's promoter

February 06, 1997

By ELLEN LYON

Staff Writer

The City of Hagerstown's decision to invest $1.2 million in a proposed ice rink at the old Hagerstown Fairgrounds also represents an investment in the ideas and abilities of the rink's chief promoter, Walter Dill Sr.

Those who have worked with him on ice rink projects describe Dill as a hard-charging, determined organizer who has an ability to raise money and turn plans into reality.

"If someone could literally sell a freezer to an Eskimo in an ice storm it would be Walt. He doesn't take no for an answer," said Mike Brattoli, a past president of the Elyria Ice Hockey Booster Club in Ohio, where Dill volunteered his time for about two years.

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In the 14 months that Dill, 46, has lived in Hagerstown, he conceived the idea for a community ice rink, founded the nonprofit Washington County Sports Foundation Inc. to develop it and convinced the city to loan $1.2 million for its construction.

Groundbreaking for the rink is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.

A check of Dill's background reveals an apparent discrepancy in his educational claims and no experience in the actual development and construction of an ice rink.

Dill has an undergraduate degree from D'Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y.

In a Jan. 23 interview, Dill, a native of Buffalo and an assistant vice president at First Data Merchant Services, said he has a master's degree in computer science.

A resume prepared a few years ago noted he was working toward a master of science degree in computer science in 1995 from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The registrar's office there said there was no record of a master's degree awarded to a Walter Dill.

"You're kidding," Dill said when told what the registrar's office said. "I know I did. I finished everything" for the degree.

Asked if he had a diploma, Dill said such documents were unimportant to him. "To be honest, I throw them out," he said.

Dill said his qualifications to develop and operate a rink come from more than 18 years of volunteering at four ice rinks in Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., Albuquerque, N.M., and Elyria.

His involvement included coaching ice hockey, running tournaments, fund-raising and working the concession stand, Dill said.

Brattoli said that at the ice rink in Elyria, Dill succeeded in convincing the city to allow advertising inside the rink, raising money from local businesses to build two new locker rooms and recruiting sponsors for tournaments.

"This is the very first (rink) that I've built from scratch, but looking at the local talent and the people around here there's no doubt in my mind that it can be built," Dill said. "I was smart enough to get the right people together that know how to make it work."

Brattoli agreed. "Knowing Walt the way I do, if he doesn't have personal knowledge (of something) he will hire or consult with someone who does know. He's not one to blindly jump in," he said.

Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager expressed confidence in Dill and the foundation, which will operate the rink.

"Even though they've never run (a rink) they have more experience than we do," Sager said. "These guys are on the line so I'm sure they're going to make it work."

Dill, executive director of the Washington County Sports Foundation, said the collective experience of other board members supplements his own.

The unpaid board includes:

  • Chairman Michael Day, a Hagerstown attorney.
  • Vice Chairman Mathew McIntosh, director of the Wellness Center and Cardiac Rehab at Hagerstown Junior College.
  • Treasurer Dave Barnhart, vice president of marketing at Hagerstown Trust.
  • Secretary Stacey McLeran, recreation superintendent at the Washington County Department of Recreation and Parks.
  • Dr. Robert J. Cirincione, an orthopedic surgeon.
  • Michael Clifford, a director at First Data Merchant Services.
  • Christine Daniels, an assistant vice president at First Data Merchant Services.


McIntosh, a native of Canada, helped build an ice rink at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in the mid-1980s and ran a rink at Kent State University in Ohio in the mid-1970s, he said.

Cirincione was on the original board of directors of the nonprofit Cumberland Valley on Ice, which plans to build an ice rink in Waynesboro, Pa., he said.

Day said the foundation has relied on experts to design and build the rink: LeRoy Myers, of Hagerstown, is the general contractor; C.W. Davis Ice Pro of Syracuse, a leading ice rink builder, will install the sheet of ice; and George Harne, who designed a rink in Frederick, Md., is the architect for the project.

The staff of the rink will include Dill as executive director; Clifford as director of programming, in charge of scheduling ice time for open skating, instructional clinics, hockey games and other uses; and McIntosh as director of coaching, Dill said.

In addition, Certified Public Accountant Ronald Sulchek will handle the foundation's accounting, and marketing consultant Jo Ellen Barnhart will serve as marketing director of the rink, Dill said.

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