See correction and amplification below.
Local developer and real estate entrepreneur Thomas Masaschi is taking his next project personally.
Masaschi, a former hockey player at Rochester Institute of Technology, is spending his own money to purchase Shumway Arena and Skating Institute of Rochester Inc. from a foundation established by the late philanthropist and figure skater Frank Ritter Shumway.
“We’re going to take control of it, buy it and put some capital into it for improvements,” Masaschi said. “The bones of the building are in great shape. It just needs some capital to increase a lot of the cosmetics.”
Masaschi declined to disclose the purchase price. He will spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on capital improvements in areas such as safety and security, lockers and the lobby, he said.
“We are going to step in now and try to work with the current group in there as far as scheduling ice time,” Masaschi said. “Getting the word out that it’s going to be open is a big issue, so we don’t lose all the scheduling for the summer and spring leagues and next year.”
Masaschi hopes to complete the acquisition within 60 days.
The ice arena, at 1 Boys Club Place just south of downtown, has struggled financially in recent years because of competition from neighboring ice rinks. It had been set to close for good at the end of the winter, Masaschi said.
“It’s one of the first rinks in Rochester,” he said. “It has a great history. It has a great legacy of professional people from Rochester who grew up playing there and continued on into the National Hockey League. It’s a great story, and I just didn’t want it to close.
“It’s something I think we can fix and tweak with some of the people we’re going to bring on board to do that with us.”
The most significant competition has come from Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, which opened in Brighton as the ESL Sports Centre in 1998.
“When that happened, that hurt it,” Masaschi said. “Without the staying power, it wasn’t able to recover quickly enough.”
The facility also competes with ice arenas in Webster, Scottsville and Canandaigua, as well as the Genesee Valley Park Sports Complex on Elmwood Avenue.
SRI has been managed by McQuaid Jesuit High School hockey coach Alan Vyverberg since 1980.
“Al has been there forever and has done a great job with what he’s had to work with,” Masaschi said.
Vyverberg has decided to leave the institute for Village Sports Inc. in Perinton.
“We’re in the city, and hockey is a suburban program, for the most part, just because of the cost,” Vyverberg said. “That has hurt us.
“In some ways, being centrally located has helped us because kids from the west side and east side can play together. On the other hand, it’s hard starting programs because you’re competing with suburban rinks that are much closer to people’s homes.”
Programs intended for city youths have not generated much revenue, he said.
“It’s been fun, though, getting kids that would probably never skate or play hockey,” he said. “But unfortunately there’s not a lot of money in that.”
The facility was constructed in 1955 by RIT with money donated by Shumway to serve as the school’s rink and as a practice facility for Shumway’s newly formed Genesee Figure Skating Club Inc. The skating rink was later named Shumway Arena.
Shumway founded the figure skating club in 1955 when he was 45. He was president of the Ritter Co., a manufacturer of dental chairs, from 1951 to 1965 and was nationally prominent in 35-and-older skating competitions.
RIT’s NCAA Division III hockey team practiced at Shumway Arena during Masaschi’s freshman season in 1988.
“That’s where I got familiar with it,” he said.
A native of Massachusetts, Masaschi played hockey and lacrosse at RIT, graduating in 1992. He was elected to the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
When RIT moved in the 1960s to a new campus in Henrietta, Shumway provided funding for what was named the Frank Ritter Memorial Ice Arena in honor of his grandfather. His figure skating club moved to the Henrietta rink upon its completion in 1968.
Shumway created a foundation to serve as ownership for the Skating Institute of Rochester.
Masaschi wants to keep the institute’s tradition alive, he said.
“It’s really the reason I’m buying it,” he said. “It’s not what I (normally) do. I just saw that it was going to close, and they’ve had troubles over the years. Someone created this foundation for a rink and skating for people publicly, and I just wanted to continue it.”
Masaschi is a managing partner at DHD Ventures LLC, whose local projects include the ongoing $18 million conversion of three empty buildings on East Main Street into a Hilton Garden Inn.
He is co-owner of the Patriot Cos. on Park Avenue, whose portfolio includes the recently completed redevelopment of 225,000 square feet of residential and retail space at 111 East Ave. Masaschi purchased the foreclosed-upon structure in November 2012 for $4.46 million.
Although the Skating Institute of Rochester is a real estate transaction like his higher-profile projects, it is his first sports-related endeavor.
“We don’t specialize in sports facilities or sports management,” he said. “But we didn’t do hotels, and we’re doing a hotel. It’s management and it’s real estate, so it’s not too far off from what we do. We just have to get the right people to run it for us.”
The facility continues to play host to games and practices for several high school and youth league programs.
“We’re going to work with the local youth hockey programs that are currently renting ice there,” Masaschi said. “It’s really like a spillover rink for a lot of the other programs. Perinton Youth Hockey has been a huge supporter of it. We’re trying to work closely with them to extend some of their programs.
“We’ll probably try to start some new programs there to capture some from the city, south of the city and west of the city. Rochester Youth Hockey, which has tournaments, needs extra ice. That’s really what it’s for. There are a lot of great marketing ideas that can be done, with the right vision and capital to take it to the next step.”
The Skating Institute of Rochester traditionally has closed for one month during the summer while maintenance is done during slower periods.
“We’ll probably still close for one month and do as many capital improvements without affecting too much of the operations going forward,” Masaschi said.
Possibilities for the facility include the addition of a restaurant or bar area and expanded locker rooms.
“It’s a tight footprint because it’s in the city, so there’s not much we can do. We have to go up a little bit or bump out a little bit in certain areas,” Masaschi said.
He also will consider trying to partner with Successful Pathways Inc., a Youth for Christ ministry next door to the facility.
“We have to grow the business, and that’s what we plan on doing,” Masaschi said. “We’re planning on growing the revenue and growing the business with programs. They’ve had fundraisers to keep it open, which always scares people from committing to it, because they don’t know if it’s going to make it through the season.
“We’re trying to now spread the word that it’s going to be open, with business as usual. It’s got staying power. People should feel confident in booking their next season with it, so you don’t have to be nervous about whether it’s going to be around.”
1/31/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.
Correction: In a story published Jan. 31, the corporate owner of property at 111 East Avenue was misidentified. The owner is DHD Ventures LLC.