What's in a Name?
Newsletter Article - January 2008
Twenty years ago this month, an ice arena opened in Dennis named after Tony Kent. The anniversary of this event has passed quietly. Its significance deserves remembrance.
The world was far different then. The Cape was too. The early and mid-1980s was a period of rapid population growth across the Cape. People streamed in to buy vacation homes and to live here permanently. The influx was so strong that local residents began to meet to determine how to slow development's pace. Town meetings began to purchase tracts of land more aggressively to preserve open space.
With new growth, priorities began to change regarding the Cape's lifestyle. Year-round residential communities sought to calm down the "American Graffiti" aspects of Route 28. The public's awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving was increasing.
New neighborhoods opposed the idea of concerts that had been commonly held at the old Cape Cod Coliseum in South Yarmouth. Problems with the building's ice infrastructure also made it difficult for the facility to prosper, and the owners sold it in 1984. The closing of the Coliseum displaced the network of hockey and skating activity that had long been as connected to winter living on the Cape as fishing in the summer.
Against this backdrop, residents began to consider possible options. Attorney Nick Mazzoni established a nonprofit organization literally named the Mid-Cape Ice Arena, Inc. It became the legal core of the efforts to construct a new facility.
Town meetings in Yarmouth and Dennis discussed possible locations for a new arena. One location on the grounds of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School did not appeal to the School Committee, and it rejected the idea. Yarmouth considered the merit of buying the Coliseum and relocating the town offices to the site where the town might also have maintained the existing rink. But ultimately, the price seemed too high given the Proposition 2 1/2 limitations that capped property tax increases that might be added to the town's budget.
Dennis offered a site on Gages Way next to the town landfill where the rink now sits. In building a road to the rink with betterments and the generosity of the Dennis Department of Public Works, the effect was to open a previously landlocked area for commercial development. Ironically, the rink's construction sparked the area's economic development that has since provided continuing property tax revenues to the town.
Like any community project, everything did not proceed smoothly, come easily, or conclude without mischief, bruised feelings, and frustrations. But for the Mid-Cape Ice Arena's decision in 1986 to name the rink for Tony Kent, I doubt whether the arena would have ever been built. The community's desire to honor his contributions overrode temporary rifts among local residents. It's an interesting decision to consider given the current inclination to sell naming rights.
Tony's life was very similar to the type of life that many people live here. He married a local woman, Leslie Chailles, who had graduated from the Dennis-Yarmouth High School. They raised three sons. Tony was a Boy Scout leader, a baseball coach in the Farm League, and later a coach in the Babe Ruth League. He helped establish the Yarmouth-Dennis Youth Hockey Association as a coach of teams that first played at the Kennedy Rink in Hyannis. He represented Dennis on the Cape Cod Regional Technical School Committee. He worked for the Dennis Highway Department.
It was Tony's enthusiasm for the ordinary opportunities in life that made him extraordinary. He gave much more than he got, and what he got was satisfaction from the kinds of relationships and activities that are available to all of us.
Twenty years have passed and a generation has enjoyed the programs and resources that the arena offers. Of the six banks that collaboratively financed the construction of the rink, only one remains as it legally existed then, the Cape Cod Cooperative Bank. And of the literally hundreds of donors of money and in-kind contributions, many are now less active and present in the local community. Some have never ventured inside the building.
And that's the essence of what it represents. The arena's value is in intangible things like the footing it provides to our sense of community. It's value is not quantifiable.
Allen Larson, President
Cape Cod Center for Sustainability