Wellesley Sports Center Walkthrough

By Abby Patkin

Changes can be difficult to see in the view from Route 9, but inside the new Wellesley Sports Center, crews have been hard at work preparing for a spring opening.

The Townsman stopped by the 900 Worcester St. work site on Wednesday to tour the facilities and see how things are coming along.

Here are a few quick things to know:

    • The state-of-the-art facility will include twin ice rinks, two pools, turf, a fitness area, an elevated track, concessions and a pro-shop.
    • The rinks were originally set to open this winter, but the National Grid lockout delayed gas installation, pushing back the timeline. The Wellesley Sports Center is now scheduled to open this spring. If the center is able to have gas to the site by mid-March, the contractor said they should be able to turn the rinks and turf over in May to make ice, with the aquatic and tenant build-out following, according to Brian DeVellis, president of managing partner Edge Sports Group. The final occupancy certificate is at the town’s discretion, he said.
    • The Wellesley Sports Center has partnered with several town and local recreation groups. For information on schedules and preferential access, check out this recent Townsman article: bit.ly/2RCt57A.
    • The ice rink named for the Dana Hall School will be ADA compliant, accessible to sled hockey teams.
    • There will be solar panels up on the center’s roof.
    • Between full- and part-time employees, the center could bring up to 100 new jobs to Wellesley, according to DeVellis. He added that the center will try to source most of its staff locally.

Post by: Wellesley Wicked Local


Facilities and Public-Private Joint Ventures

Posted by | Jan 23, 2019 |

Many municipalities, schools and colleges offering sports programs are finding themselves in a facilities crunch. Often, their existing facility is in dire need of an upgrade, and their needs may have changed since their current facility was constructed. Maybe facility management is not their strong suit and they would prefer to hand their future build over to a professional management team. Or it may be all about the financials, with needs being a portion of the total slots available.

That’s where Brian DeVellis and ESG Associates comes in. The Massachusetts-based firm excels at public-private collaboration on year round athletic facilities, helping its clients cover all bases — venue design, permitting, construction oversight and operations. DeVellis is the President of ESG Associates and, with a background in law and landscape architecture, has been developing partnerships with towns and schools that work for everyone.

“Groups call us telling us, ‘There’s a Request for Proposal (RSP) out and we want you to respond to it’,” DeVellis says. “It’s a phenonemon that’s been taking off over the past decade,” he says. “We’re riding the wave, and the towns we’re in appreciate it.”

Town of Wellesley and ESG

One of their current projects is the Wellesley Sport Center, a massive 130,000 sq. ft. which will be housing twin rinks, swimming pools, a turf field, fitness, strength and conditioning areas as well as concessions. This is a public-private partnership between ESG and the Town of Wellesley, MA, , slated for opening in the spring of 2019.

The Town brought the land to the table: the Center is being built on land where a church once was. ESG responded to, and was awarded the RFP and negotiated a 50-year land lease — taking the control, construction and future operation out of the hands of the Town. In return, the Town, its high school and youth sports groups, will be given first pick for time slots – rented at market rates. Any leftover slots will be available for rent to outside groups. Town residents will be given preferred use, and the Town will benefit from property taxes from the venue, estimated at $200,000/year.

“Most towns are spending money building fire stations and schools,” DeVellis says. “Sports facilities are a needed asset — but they’re also a luxury many towns can’t afford. That’s why partnering with us makes so much sense. By privatizing these types of facilities by and having us work hand-in-hand with existing recreation programs, we’re able to provide not only a facility, but a partner.”

Project Timeline

On any project, ESG begins with a feasibility study, ensuring there is enough demand to support a year-round facility with multiple sports.

“Then we design it, work with the lenders to bring in equity, get the permits, build it and bring in an operations team six months in advance to set up the programs.” DeVellis says the programming for a facility like the Wellesley Sports Center will run the gamut, offering activities for all age groups, from hockey to pickleball, lacrosse to walking tracks.

“With any project, we need to be sure the demand is for more than one season and one surface,” says DeVellis. “We also need to understand our audience to offer services that fill their needs, like tutoring and take-home meals for parents. We try to cater to the whole family. We know the sports season isn’t just one month, or just one athlete. It’s the whole family.”

ESG has developed half a dozen facilities so far and each one of them is different. Often ESG will manage the operations but sometimes they put together the employee handbook, hire and train the staff and then hand over the keys.

“All our employees undergo a C.O.R.I. check (Criminal Offender Record Investigation) and are fingerprinted. Safety is critical and background checks are one way we keep our facilities safe. We also keep up on training, use the best technology and look for the best staff.”

The Bottom Line

This summer will mark a turning point for ESG and let them expand their offerings to include large tournaments. By then, they will manage multiple facilities, all within 40 minutes of each other, all in the greater Boston area. That will give them the flexibility they need to run and attract large tournaments to Boston, leveraging their ice hockey development and events partner, The AXE Sports Group, owners of the prestigious Hockey Night in Boston.

And although ESG has a foothold in Massachusetts, they have worked on a wide variety of consulting projects across the country. That includes a multi-purpose rink, indoor turf field and retail in Florida, collaboration with State universities in Nebraska and Arizona and The Golf Club of New England, a 7,673 yard Arnold Palmer-designed championship course on the New Hampshire seacoast.

“We’re in this to turn a profit for our investors,” DeVellis says. “With each one we develop, we redefine our model and, hopefully, our investors agree!”

WELLESLEY — Communities often dream of creating new indoor athletic facilities to benefit children, adults, and high school teams.

It took the closing of St. James the Great Church — and several years of planning — for such a dream to be realized in Wellesley. Next spring, a sparkling facility is scheduled to open with two ice rinks, two swimming pools, a strength and conditioning center, and a turf field with an elevated track.

The hoped-for December opening of the Wellesley Sports Center was pushed back due to bad weather and the inability to secure gas service to the site, according to the project’s builder, ESG Associates Inc. Non-emergency gas service projects have been delayed by the monthslong lockout of union gas workers by National Grid.

“Natural gas is essential for everything from heating the buildings and hot water to running the dehumidifiers for the ice rinks,” said Brian DeVellis, president of ESG, which will also operate the completed facility.

The new timeline depends upon gas being installed by March 2019, the statement said.

Once the center opens, preferred ice and pool times will be given to the high school, Dana Hall, Wellesley Youth Hockey, and the Wellesley Swim Association. The center will also offer recreational skating and pool times to the public. In addition, the facility will be available to rent to other area organizations and sports groups.

“We’ll be able to change our dinner hours,” said Jennifer Dutton, coach of the girls’ and boys’ swim teams at Wellesley High. “I haven’t been home for dinner for almost 20 years.”

Wellesley’s boys’ and girls’ hockey teams have practiced and played games at nearby Babson College for many years. They had hoped to be the first teams to play in the Wellesley Sports Center this month.

However, the construction delay has forced the teams to seek ice time at other facilities. Wellesley High athletic director John Brown has worked out most of the scheduling with Babson, as well as surrounding facilities.

Once the rinks open, “it will be nice for the players to eliminate 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. practices out of town,” said boys’ hockey coach Paul Donato. “We’re really looking forward to a first-class facility in Wellesley.”

“We’ve practiced all hours of the day,” said Dutton, the swim coach. “It’s pretty amazing something like this can happen in Wellesley.”

“There was a strong need for recreational resources in town,” said Wellesley’s planning director, Michael Zehner. Buying the St. James site was “a unique way for it to happen.”

The Boston archdiocese closed St. James in 2004 and eventually sold the property to the town for $3.8 million, with additional costs for demolition, abatement, and study bringing the total to about $4.5 million, according to town officials. In 2015, the church’s dusty walls came down.

In 2017, the town signed a long-term lease with Wellesley Sports Group LLC, a development team led by DeVellis. ESG is responsible for building, controlling, and operating the facility.

“This complex is an excellent example of what can be done with public/private partnerships,” DeVellis said.

One rink will seat about 1,000 people, which would accommodate the crowds expected when Wellesley High plays archrivals like Needham and Natick.

“I’m excited,” said Brown, anticipating the grand opening. “When it’s done it’s going to be beautiful.”

Dutton, the swim coach, said “I hope things go as planned. Things happen, things pop up some times.” And so they have, not unusual in major building projects.

But the future looks bright. “I’ve spent 10 years of my life on this,” said Andy Wrobel, who was on the planning committee. “I couldn’t be prouder. It’s the legacy we’ll leave behind.”


Lenny Megliola | Boston Globe

  Lenny Megliola can be reached at lennymegs41@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @lennymegs.