Milford Skating Center ‘must move on’

MILFORD –  One month after the community came together to sign the wall at the Milford Skating Center in support of the business, their fear has become reality.

“Milford Skating Center is closing,” Charles Gray said.

In fact, the center’s last open skate at its 1 Park Ave. facility was July 30 from 1-4 p.m.

“I just basically want to thank the kids and their families for supporting me throughout my five years of my journey, that I love each and every one of them. And I’m hoping to move on and hopefully find some investors and maybe move,” owner Carmen Kemper said.

Although Ms. Kemper has only owned the business for five years, she has worked at the Milford Skating Center since 1985.

“It’s very emotional, very hard because I have put my heart and soul into this business for the community, for the children, for the families and the organizations. This is the only place that Milford had left for families and their kids to get together and do family things. And now it’s gone,” she said with tears in her eyes.

After she received a call last month from her landlord, Dennis Silicato, stating the building lease was to run out on June 30 with a looming decision, she stepped into action.

She and others behind the scenes organized a community gathering at the rink for supporters to spend time signing a back wall and remembering their experiences at the Milford facility.

The lease became a month-to-month lease while options were considered.

“There was a deadline of [July 29] to reach an agreement and it was not met,” Mr. Gray, who worked at the Milford Skating Center, said.

According to Ms. Kemper, the city of Milford also could not offer the Milford Skating Center any assistance, despite speaking with officials personally.

“I thought we offered her plenty of help,” Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe said.

“We talked about the two scenarios: if the lease was renewed, we talked about renovations if they wanted to do that,” he said, adding that the Downtown Development District designation could probably help with grants and other funding assistance should Milford earn that opportunity.

The city of Milford applied for the designation earlier in the year, however a decision has yet to be made by the state of Delaware.

“The second scenario we talked about, of course, was if their lease was not renewed. We could put them in touch with other property owners to see if there’s anything out there they’ve seen, or, I think more so, we would put them in touch with the city planner who would be able to look up the properties and see who owns what,” he explained further.

Mayor Shupe said the city also offered to talk to the Economic Development Committee to discuss any available impact and permit fee waivers to help keep jobs in Milford and possibly expand their workforce.

“Of course I told her none of it was written in stone, any incentives or waivers would have to go through the right process through the city. I couldn’t do it myself, but I’d be willing to go to them and talk about it,” he added.

Mayor Shupe also said he is just one of the many kids who have travelled through the Milford Skating Center time and time again.

“It’s been there for 20-some years. It’s sad to see it go. I went there as a kid and not only as a young kid, but went there as I got older for hockey. It’s just a shame that the landlord couldn’t come to a compromise on this,” he said.

According to Mr. Gray, the skating center could not compete with higher rent rates offered to Mr. Silicato who manages the property for the Greater Milford Development Company, LLC.

The increase for the landlord would be over 400 percent what the Milford Skating Center currently pays, Mr. Gray added.

“Milford Skating Center cannot afford to raise their rates to accommodate the property owners wishes,” Mr. Gray said. “It is with great sadness we must move on. It is with greater optimism that we will find a professional property owner to strike a new partnership or property we can invest in.”

Ms. Kemper said she hopes the Milford Skating Center can relocate and continue offering services in the near future.

She said, “There’s a reason for everything. I just want to tell the kids that I want them all to be safe and to hang in there. Don’t get into any trouble and soon I’ll be able to find a place to house all my friends and family and everybody that has supported me.”

Mr. Silicato could not be reached for a comment.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.