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New arena could be part of major sports complex in Worcester

They are talking about quite an athletic complex in Worcester. Among the possible buildings: a new arena.
Worcester, MA wants to gets its athletic facilities up-to-date in a big way.

A local businessman named Paul Cantiani and City Manager Michael O’Brien have a plan for a  sports complex with separate facilities housing an indoor hockey rink, an indoor all-purpose field, batting cages, a sports medicine clinic and possibly even a bicycle hall of fame.

This caught the attention of Worcester Sharks president Michael Lehr. Currently, his AHL team plays at DCU Center, a 25-year old facility, which is run by the city. As such, the Sharks share the place with a lot of folks ranging from circuses to high school basketball.

The team has been looking at moving to their own facility for some time. They had cast coveted eyes at Buffone Arena, a city-owned facility used mainly for open skating.

Michael J. Germain, chairman of the City Council’s committee on youth, parks and recreation, plans to put a proposal before the council Tuesday to request that Mr. O’Brien begin working with the Sharks to develop or redevelop the hockey arena as a way to get the project rolling.

“It has got unlimited potential,” Germain said, “and I really think it could take off. The city needs something like this, and the Parks Department needs something like this. I think it can happen piece by piece.”

When the Sharks moved to Worcester 2-1/2 years ago, Lehr said he told O’Brien the team was interested in operating its own rink in Worcester. The team’s parent company in San Jose runs five rinks in San Jose and one in Oakland and plans to build another in Fremont, Calif.

“Paul’s concept is one that definitely interests us,” Lehr said.

“Whether you remodel Buffone or even build two new rinks,” Lehr said, “there’s a lot of work to be done on it, but I can say emphatically that the Worcester Sharks are interested in growing our business in Worcester and that means looking at other avenues, such as ice skating rinks. I think the plan is tremendous.”