Locker room improvements delayed at Neponset ice rink

When Dorchester Youth Hockey President Matt Sweeney watches his 400 young skaters hit the ice at the Devine Memorial Rink, he breathes a temporary sigh of relief. Despite any hard hits on the boards, his top safety concerns right now are the health repercussions stemming from the aging floor matting in the locker rooms.

"It's old and dirty and we don't want our kids putting their feet down on it," Sweeney said.

New matting for the locker room would cost $10,000 and, according to Sweeney, everything seemed set to go back in August. The contract was sent out to bid and new measurements were taken for the project. Six months later, there has been no progress and the money that was originally set aside for the project by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been reallocated.

Sweeney emphasizes that this is not an aesthetic issue but a health one, especially with increased awareness of MRSA, an anti-biotic resistant staph infection that is often passed along in locker rooms with unsanitary conditions.

"We haven't had any problems yet because we are continuously stressing to be weary," Sweeney said.

Wendy Fox, spokesperson for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, still calls the project a top priority.

"We're definitely still moving forward on that," Fox said. "There isn't an exact timetable. Let me just say that everyone here appreciates that everyone wants this done yesterday and we are working as fast as we can. We will get this done."

Pressed for a timetable, Fox was noncommittal. "Can't tell you," she responded when asked if the project would be completed by the end of the year.

"There is still money for the project," Fox said.

Still some at Dorchester Youth Hockey remain frustrated by the delay.

"We have a very committed program," said Jay Broderick, vice president of Dorchester Youth Hockey. "We're looking for a return commitment from the state. We're not looking for electric scoreboards or [anything] state of the art. We just want our kids to have a safe place to change and not worry about staph infections. That is not a lot to ask."

"The staff is great at the rink, but it's like trying to bail out the Titanic with a shot glass. It's a clear lack of commitment from the state. From the Zamboni that breaks down every other week - they don't give the staff the tools to keep up the place," Broderick said.

"Its frustrating, that's all," Broderick went on. "I understand times are tough but you have 300 inner city kids down here three or four days a week. We don't ask for anything. We're efficient. We just ask for a small commitment for the basic necessities. They talk about funding these programs to keep kids out of trouble. Just give us some basic facilities to let us do it."

State Representative Marty Walsh also expressed frustration over the matting issue. "I understand there are fiscal ramifications but I would hope the DCR would explain. I have not heard back from them," he said. "I'm not happy about it. I understand the budget process and if they explain that every program had been cut, that's one thing but I'd like some answers."