Spartan accomodations: Dikeman and CSC take arena forward.

Last year, the fate of the Rutland Regional Fieldhouse was uncertain. Faced with crushing debt, it appeared that all the hard work and dedication put forth by a great many in the Rutland community was going to come crashing down. Opened in 2002, the Fieldhouse is truly an impressive space – an incredibly ambitious undertaking, by Rutland standards – and the thought that it could simply disappear overnight seemed unjust.

But that was not to be. In July, Castleton State College stepped in to purchase the facility, rechristening it “Spartan Arena,” and making it the official home of the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Additionally, the college eagerly honored the Fieldhouse’s original commitment to keeping the space open to the community.

Stepping into Spartan Arena, you can tell that something good is happening here. There is an intangible sense of confidence and direction that was absent in the past. It is active and accessible. Between the Castleton, local high schools and myriad Rec. Department programs, there is something happening in the arena every day of the week. Indeed, finally having some financial stability certainly allows you to focus your attention on other areas such as additional programs, special events and facility upgrades.

But to do all these things, you need leadership. Fortunately, the arena has succeeded here as well. In December, CSC announced that it had selected Rutland native Scott Dikeman to be the new arena director. Dikeman, a local businessman and current president of the Rutland Economic Development Corporation (REDC), who has almost 25 years of experience in banking and commercial finance, seemed like a natural choice.

“It’s great to be here and to be part of Castleton,” Dikeman says of the job. “The players, the fans, the families – it’s an electric environment,” he added, noting the palpable energy that keeps the facility bustling.

A lifelong sports enthusiast, Dikeman notes that some might associate him more with basketball, both as a player and an official. However, he’s no stranger to the ice. His father Bob was a founding member of the Rutland Amateur Hockey Association (RAHA).

“I remember playing in the barns during those first years,” he recalls.

In his office, Dikeman keeps himself busy with the day-to-day responsibilities of an arena director.

“I run the front of the house,” he says, “manage the finances, do the marketing, book ice times, develop ways to generate more revenue.”

Dikeman is quick to note that he’s not alone. He is grateful for the staff that he has in place, especially Operations Manager Dave Manfredi.

“Dave is a huge asset,” he says. “He knows the place well, and keeps it running smoothly.”

And that’s no small task. While the arena may be best known for hockey, it is in fact an incredibly versatile space. Every March, the ice comes out and is replaced by turf – a process that takes about a week, start to finish. The turf hosts a number of indoor athletic activities like soccer, lacrosse and rugby.

This year, the turf will also be home to several CSC intramural teams. This summer, the arena will spend two months as “dry floor” when it will be open to host several area high school graduations, trade shows and other special events.

A brief weekend of “dry floor” will come early this year, however, when Spartan Arena plays host to the well known jam band “moe.”. The band arrives as part of a weekend-long festival called Snoe.down 2010 running from March 26 to 28. The event takes place in conjunction with Killington’s annual Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge.

The two nights of shows will be something completely different for the arena. In a lot of ways, it’s an experiment to see what the space is capable of. Dikeman is excited about the prospects of adding “concert venue” to the arena’s bag of tricks.

“Afterward, I think we’ll definitely know one way or another if something like this will work again,” he said.

Only a month into the job, Dikeman says he already feels right at home.

“This is a great opportunity,” he said as we sat in his office, overlooking the ice where, at the moment, the Castleton women’s team was practicing. And while his particular job may be an exciting new opportunity personally, he is clearly speaking more to the possibilities of the arena.

Given the momentum of Castleton over the last few years under the inspired leadership of college president David Wolk – another Rutland native who understands the advantages of connecting the school to the community – it seems that Spartan Arena has nowhere to go but up, and out.

“We’ve got seven acres on site here,” Dikeman said.

While he was tight-lipped about future plans for development of that land, it’s a safe bet that any new projects will continue to deepen those connections between the CSC and Rutland communities, a fact he emphasized, stating, “We’re open to the community, and we mean it.”

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