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Strapped ice rink put up for sale

November 30, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

ZULLINGER, Pa. - For Carol Henicle, the unthinkable is happening. The financially stressed Doris I. Billow Ice Arena is being put up for sale.

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Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, led the effort two years ago to secure grants and loans to build the $3 million, 38,000-square-foot rink. She said Tuesday the facility has been put in the hands of ERA Penn First Realty. Henicle said she didn't know the selling price. Paul D. Gunder, owner of the real estate firm, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The rink, which opened in December 1997, is run by a nonprofit corporation, Cumberland Valley on Ice.

"The board was running out of options, so it decided at its last meeting to try to sell it as an ice rink so it can keep operating. We had to go this route to see if anybody is interested," Henicle said. She said ads will run nationwide.

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L. Michael Ross, president of the Cumberland Valley on Ice Board of Directors, was out of town and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

"I feel really sad about this. We really hoped this would be a successful regional and Franklin County recreational facility," Henicle said. "It's sad that there isn't enough support to keep it going as a nonprofit ice rink."

The rink will continue to operate on its regular schedule while it's on the market, Henicle said. Its two full-time employees, including Executive Director Jane Meyers, will stay on, as will the rink's part-time employees, she said. "Jane is committed to keeping it running," Henicle said.

The rink's problems stem from revenues that have fallen short of projections, Ross has said.

The board missed several mortgage payments to F&M Bank of Chambersburg, Pa., its main creditor, but Ross has discounted rumors that the bank was planning to foreclose. The rink's two mortgages with the bank total more than $1.85 million.

The rink is named after Doris I. Billow, a local school teacher who left $500,000 in her will to build an ice rink to train figure skaters. Billow and her sisters were avid skaters in their youth, according to two of her sisters who spoke at the groundbreaking for the rink in June 1997.

The rink sits on an 8.25-acre site on Pa. 16 about three miles west of Waynesboro in the village of Zullinger.

A big chunk of the money to build it came from a $250,000 state grant secured by state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Waynesboro. Fund-raising brought in another $250,000, and the Frick Co. of Waynesboro donated the ice-making machinery. The rest of the money to build the rink came from F&M loans.

Earlier this month Ross said the construction and startup costs were higher than predicted.

The board paid a consultant $20,000 to check with area business and community leaders to see if there was enough support for a second-round of fund-raising to get the rink out of the red.

When the board learned that such an effort would be futile, the members voted to put the rink up for sale, Henicle said.

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