Josh Kaufmann, St. Albans Messenger
It’s just a fabulous donation.
HIGHGATE — A local business was thanked Wednesday night for its donation of $400,000 of equipment to the Missisquoi Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA). The donation will go to improve the Highgate Arena.
Sticks & Stuff recently purchased the Indoor Recreation of Orleans County (IROC) facility in Derby, gutted the interior and transported ice rink boards, a scoreboard, locker room, weight room and gymnastics equipment and other valuable furnishings to Highgate.
“It’s a great boost to what we’ve been working on for so long,” said Kim Gates, MAHA’s facility board director and chair of the Highgate Arena Renovation Team (HART). “It’s just a fabulous donation.”
MAHA took the time to thank Sticks and Stuff owners — Jerry Belisle, Kris Bullock and Jeff Lamphere — before Wednesday night’s girls’ hockey game between Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans and Missisquoi Valley Union High School.
The game featured the use of the recently installed scoreboard.
A donation of about $400,000 in equipment is a great starting point, Gates said, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. In March, a $4.3 million bond vote was defeated in Swanton, which sunk hopes for local funding. Franklin and Highgate passed the bond to renovate the arena, but approval was needed from all three communities.
However, the equipment donation and a recent Healthy People, Strong Communities grant, Gates said, have rekindled the effort to make arena improvements. She said a capital campaign has begun to help fund HART and the early stages of the design work for a revamped arena.
“It’s still in the early stages,” Gates said. “ We’re looking for more local, in-kind donations. Financial support is always appreciated.”
Before and during last night’s game, Gates said the proposed design for the new arena was on display. The design includes six locker rooms, a community room, weight room and a walkway around the ice rink, Gates said. The ice rink surface itself is also going to be slightly larger, she said.
Even lacking the renovations, the arena is a constant hub of activity, Gates said. From youth hockey, to men’s leagues to high school teams using the rink for practice, she said the arena is used every day and night. She said teams and organizations have been filling up the arena’s spring schedule with practices, games and activities.
“It’s amazing how busy the arena is,” Gates said.
She added that the arena, while a magnet for local recreational uses, is also a destination for others throughout the state. She said that interest from near and far is what helped convince Sticks & Stuff to make the equipment donation.
“It’s incredible that they chose us,” she said. “It just goes back to having roots in the community.”