WORCESTER – The Worcester Railers have spent the first two and a half seasons of their existence living in The Edge, and with Covid-19 ravaging organized sports, the last and a half seasons living on it.
The ECHL team is in the early stages of solidifying its presence in the city by exploring the idea of renovating a historic mansion near Elm Park with the possibility of it serving as housing for players. This would coincide with the resumption of their playing schedule which was suspended last year in the Northern Division of the league.
So far, the Railers have rented space from The Edge near Union Station.
“We want to make sure we’re doing this right,” said Mike Myers, team chief operating officer. “We want to work closely with the city and take all the necessary measures, meet with all the necessary advice, obtain all the necessary permits. We love the neighborhood and want to be good neighbors.
Maple Room, 65 Cedar Street
Cliff Rucker, owner of the railroads, bought what was known as Maple Hall from 65 Cedar Street. It was once used as a dormitory by Becker College, who bought it in the 1940s. Built in Originally in 1884 by William H. Burns, he became known as the “Burns Folly” throughout town.
According to real estate transfers published in the Sunday Telegram on May 23, 65 Cedar St. was sold from Hampton Properties LLC to Cedar St. Housing LLC for $ 625,000.
ECHL teams are required to provide accommodation for their players and this can represent a significant part of their budget, perhaps up to 20%. Several teams in the league own their player housing, so the Railers’ move in that direction is not unprecedented.
It wasn’t an impulsive decision, according to Myers.
“It really takes us back to our roots,” he said. “Losing last season allowed us to do that, to go back to original ideas that had been overturned by bad timing.”
Maple Hall retains the Victorian look of its construction. They have a photo of the property in its early days and at one point there was an elaborate carriage house in the back.
ECHL teams provide housing
ECHL teams are required to provide accommodation for their players. It is part of the collective agreement with the union. Married players have separate accommodation.
“It’s a whole different set of issues,” Myers said. “We want to reduce our housing expenses, which is the case. You can examine it in several ways. First, we can really save a lot of money, save money and not have married players, but that’s not a reality.
“The reality is we want a Mike Cornell or a Barry Almeida for what they give us on the ice. They are key players. For example, a guy like Jordan Smotherman wouldn’t live in the apartment. “
Who would be?
Unmarried players and each would have their own separate bedroom. There would be a shared bathroom, kitchen, utility room and dining room. If the plan goes through the licensing process, there will be 20 player rooms and another room for an older, more settled member of the organization, possibly a coach.
The players represent the Railers
“It won’t be a fraternity house,” Myers said. “It’s a concern, but it was also a concern at The Edge. The players there represented us day after day.
Many ECHL players turned professional after college, so some teams have older rosters than AHL teams. The 2019-2020 Railers roster, for example, had a median age of 25.
Myers believes the group setup will be a plus both on the record and on the ice.
“It gives us a place where players can bond,” he said. “There can’t be a better place for this than this. This will give them a common space to meet, a large kitchen which is a common space, a common dining room and a large patio outside where they can meet together.
The kitchen and dining room are expected to be very busy places. Most ECHL players prepare their own meals and eat there.
The Railers plan includes updating the exterior of the building with fresh paint, but without architectural alteration in keeping with its historic status.
“We would like to keep the character from when it was built,” Myers said, “and spruce it up, adapt it to some of the other renovated homes in the area – really make it part of the neighborhood.”
It would all be part of a larger plan to get the Railers back into the professional hockey world after a seemingly endless leave.