Milford Skating Center’s lease may not be renewed

 

The Milford Skating Center as it looks today along Park Avenue. (Rendering from the Rivertown Rebirth presentation)

The Milford Skating Center as it looks today along Park Avenue. (Rendering from the Rivertown Rebirth presentation)

MILFORD — After a phone call last week, the owner of the Milford Skating Center said she fears for the future of the business she has helped to run for nearly three decades.

Carmen Kemper started working at the rink 28 years ago, just two years after it opened. She now runs the business with her brother, Charles Gray, and other family members.

“Our landlord called last Friday to say our lease runs out on June 30 and he has to make a decision. That decision is not in writing yet,” she said, adding that she sent a request in November 2015 stating the family’s desire to remain in the facility at 1 Park Ave. for another five years.

During that same phone call last week, Ms. Kemper said, Dennis Silicato of Silicato Development and the landlord of the downtown building, told her he had participated in conversations involving Milford City Manager Eric Norenberg, Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe, Downtown Milford Inc. Executive Director Lee Nelson, Randy Marvel of Marvel Agency, Davis, Bowen & Friedel and the Delaware Music School.

After Mr. Silicato’s telephone call, Ms. Kemper and Mr. Gray created a blog to rally community support for keeping the skating rink downtown in its current location. [The blog can be found at https://skatingmatters.wordpress.com/]

In response to the blog, the city of Milford released a statement, which reads in part:

“The city of Milford, including the mayor, city council, the city manager and other staff, do not intervene in or participate in matters involving landlords and tenants unless there are code violations or criminal activity.”

Mayor Shupe said the city was contacted by Davis, Bowen & Friedel who expressed concern that the business needed more space.

The city’s statement also offered to help the rink owners to find and identify potential partnerships and assistance should relocation be necessary.

“The Milford Skating Center has a long history in our community of providing family-friendly entertainment and recreation for all ages. Accordingly, we hope both parties find a positive resolution to this situation,” the statement reads.

Mr. Marvel, a local real estate agent, offered similar sentiments.

“We consider both of them [Davis, Bowen & Friedel and the Milford Skating Rink] good neighbors, but we had zero involvement in this,” he said.

The Milford branch of the Music School of Delaware, which is looking to move to a new location by 2017 while remaining in the downtown Milford area, also claimed no involvement in “meetings gathering the parties listed in the blog,” according to the Music School of Delaware President and CEO Kate Ransom.

“We are conducting our due diligence to look at any available property space that might meet the needs of the school. The school is not presently in negotiations to that effect. We are still in an exploratory stage,” Ms. Ransom said. “We certainly have had no role in transactions or actions involving any lease-tenant relationships between other parties. Our own relationship with our current landlord has been very positive.”

Community support

After hearing the news of arising problems for the Milford Skating Center on social media, Milford resident and former skating center employee Ivy Hinson started a petition online, hoping to “keep the Milford Skating Center open.”

So far, nearly 1,000 people have signed that petition.

“My hope is that the rink can stay where it is and that the rent Carmen pays remains affordable,” she said. “The rink is a staple of the community. It’s one of the few affordable things the city has left. It’s all about old money and everyone knows that.”

The community has also been invited to the Milford Skating Center from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday to add signatures to a wall of support. No skating or admission fees will be charged to participate.

The Milford Skating Center reaches more than 100 students each week during the school year through its after-school skating sessions, according to Mr. Gray. And that, he says, is just one of many programs and events offered weekly at the rink.

“If the rink closes, we’re limiting choices available for children in the community. We’re taking another aspect away from the destination part of Milford,” he said. “Davis, Bowen & Friedel matters as a business, no doubt. And the Milford Skating Center matters as a business.

“The next closest centers are in Dover and Laurel. Parents and children will have to take their money outside of Milford for recreational purposes. Our community needs positive options. Not negative options. You don’t see people knocking down the city door with other recreational facility ideas.”

Should the rink be asked to move, Mr. Gray said, they would have to close their doors for good.

“You’re making a business move at the expense of that business,” he added. “If it’s not a big deal to lose the skating center, then what’s next?”

Neither Davis, Bowen & Friedel, nor Mr. Silicato have returned calls or other attempts to reach them for comment.

Jennifer Antonik writes special reports for the Delaware State News

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