PEABODY — The lack of adequate lockers and bathrooms for girls' hockey teams who face off at the city's McVann–O'Keefe Skating Rink has drawn the attention of city and state officials, but a project to fix it is still in the early stages.
Mayor Ted Bettencourt and Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy were among those who toured the cramped lockers last week at the nearly 45-year-old facility.
On Thursday, Bettencourt told the City Council's Finance Committee about the need to update the state-owned, municipally run rink with its unequal changing rooms for boys and girls.
"We took a tour of the facility and talked about our concerns, particularly about the lack of locker room space for the girls' teams," Bettencourt said in an interview last week.
"We'll speak again with the commissioner after the holidays about some options we can look at. It's certainly a major concern of mine that we have a facility in the city that's inadequate."
State Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, did not tour the rink last week, but she has been inside and describes the girls' lockers as "completely inadequate." They need to be brought up to date, she said.
Lovely said a preliminary figure to do so would be $2 million to $2.5 million, and she said the city is taking another look at that estimate to try to whittle it down. Where the money might come from, Lovely could not say, but she said everyone is going to put their heads together because the project is so important.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation said the commissioner had a "productive meeting" with state and local officials and "looks forward to working collaboratively with the city of Peabody to explore renovation options."
Lovely credited Councilor-at-large Anne Manning-Martin as being on a mission to bring the rink up to date. Manning-Martin said in a brief interview she had not attended the Finance Committee meeting, so she was unable to comment further.
The state constructed the rink on Lowell Street in 1974, and the city has been responsible for costs and operations since 1991. If the city wants to do work, however, the state has to approve it. Under the terms of the lease between state agency and Peabody, improvements are the responsibility of the city.
About six years ago, the city spent $1.4 million to upgrade the rink with a new concrete floor for the ice, a new refrigeration/dehumidification system, and new lighting and rink boards.
But there are still no bathrooms in the girls' home locker room, which is located a short distance from the rink, in a separate part of the rink from the boys' changing area. The bathrooms had to be removed in the 1990s to accommodate large girls' teams of 25 players.
And this locker area has just one shower for an entire girls' team to use.
The girls' visitor locker room has no showers and no bathrooms. It's actually a locker room located within the boys' changing area, which is locked to keep the boys' and the girls teams separated when they have games that follow one another.
The boys' lockers, while also cramped, have showers and bathrooms. The visitors girls' do not, and they have to use bathrooms located elsewhere in the facility.
Councilor-at-large David Gravel, who chairs the council's Finance Committee, said the mayor is planning to hire a consultant to figure out the scope of the project and its cost.
Bettencourt wrote Roy earlier in the year to point out the growing popularity of girls' hockey as reflected in the ice time schedule. North Shore Vipers, Peabody High (a merged program with North Reading and Lynnfield) and Bishop Fenwick (a merged team with Essex Tech in Danvers), call the rink home ice. Girls in youth and select hockey programs also need locker space.