BREAKING NEWS: Town Fails To Purchase Ristuccia Memorial Arena; New Owner Revealed

WILMINGTON, MA — The Ristuccia Memorial Arena has recently been sold.

According to a deed filed with the Middlesex North Registry of Needs on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, Gallant Memorial LLC purchased the rink for $3,250,000, an amount $1 million more than the town had previously indicated it would offer.

According to a recent filing with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Corporations Division, Gallant Memorial LLC was formed on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. The company intends to “own and operate an ice arena and business customarily associated with an ice rink.” Its managers are Richard and Susan Gallant, of Concord.

Richard Gallant is the President of the Islanders Hockey Organization and serves as Commissioner of the U.S. Premiere Hockey League. In 2012, Gallant donated $2 million to Merrimack College to upgrade its athletic facilities and build a second ice rink, which his Islanders program calls home.

Off the ice, Gallant, an entrepreneur, is Chairman and Co-Founder of Global Technology Finance, LLC, a diversified financial services company, and Managing Member of Fibertech Medical, an endoscopic repair company. Gallant previous served as Managing Director at Credit Suisse First Boston.

The Town of Wilmington had expressed a strong desire to purchase the rink.

At a December 2014 Special Town Meeting, residents overwhelmingly (391 to 7) approved authorizing the Board of Selectmen to spend up to $2.25 million to acquire Ristuccia Arena. Residents also supported establishing an enterprise fund into which receipts for the rink would be deposited and from which expenses related to the rink would be paid.

The plans hit a snag in May 2015, however, when Rotondo Enterprises, the lessee of the rink, took Bernard Ristuccia, the rink’s owner, to court, claiming Rotondo Enterprises had “the right of first offer” to purchase the rink and match any potential offer from the town.  The dispute over this clause in the contract had been tied up in Middlesex Superior Court for years.

The enterprise fund had been re-approved, with placeholder amounts, at subsequent Annual Town Meetings in anticipation of a potential sale to the town.

It’s not yet known how the Gallant purchase came about. The last time Selectmen discussed the Ristuccia Arena in Executive Session is believed to be May 2018. Selectmen last addressed the matter in public session in March 2017.

“Unfortunately, there has been no meaningful progress to report with respect to the litigation,” Town Manager Jeff Hull said in March 2017. “The Town has been successful in obtaining intervenor status in the litigation which established the Town of Wilmington as party to the litigation… As such, the Town would be a party to any settlement discussions. There was been no indication on the part of Rotondo Enterprises or Bernard Ristuccia that they are interested in entering into settlement discussions.”

It’s unclear how the new ownership will affect Wilmington Youth Hockey and the Wilmington High School hockey program. The availability and cost of ice team has been a longstanding issue for Wilmington hockey players.

On January 30, 2019, less than a week prior to the sale, Wilmington Youth Hockey President Scott Audette sent an email to parents highlighting some of the financial challenges the youth sports organization has been able to overcome.

“Looking back at this year, and towards next year, we want to be transparent about the finances of running the organization,” wrote Audette. “Currently, a sheet of ice at Ristuccia costs $365 per 50 minutes on average.  This rate represented a 6% increase from the previous contracts, versus the 3 to 4% increase the organization had experienced historically.  Due to circumstances beyond the control of WYHA, this rate was presented to the Board in July, a little more than a month before the season started.  To be clear, this is the highest cost of any rink in our area.”

“Recently, we have been informed that this cost of ice time will increase next year by approximately $20 per 50-minute sheet. This again is an increase of about 6.1% over this season,” continued Audette. “While we are disappointed at the significant increase, at least we understand what the cost will be in advance of the season and allow WYHA to plan accordingly.  To that end, we have also been informed that ice costs will increase the following season (2020 – 2021) about another 5%. Unfortunately, the availability of ice time at other rinks has not been sufficient to support our entire organization, but the Board is always on alert for other options.”

Town Manager Jeff Hull is expected to update Selectmen on the rink’s purchase at their meeting this Monday night.

Wilmington Apple intends on covering that meeting and will continue to reach out to Richard Gallant for comment.

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