Kiwanis Park, two sports fields along Farm Road at New Canaan High School, artificial turf fields near the water towers and the parking lot south of the softball Orchard Field at Waveny all are contenders as potential sites for a proposed open-aired ice rink, officials said last week.
Those areas appear to meet the rigid criteria needed for a seasonal rink in New Canaan that would be open to the public with an admission charge, under a proposal that Parks & Recreation Commissioner Gene Goodman is developing as a member of the appointed body.
Goodman said that after consulting with recreation and public works officials, several other candidates—such as at Mead Park, the New Canaan Nature Center, Saxe Middle School and Conner Field—had to be rejected for a variety of reasons.
A potential site must be level, big enough to accommodate a 120-by-60-foot rink with an additional 10-foot perimeter as well as space for temporary structures (snack bar, changing area, skate shop, office, Zamboni machine), access to bathrooms and running water and electricity, and parking for at least 40 vehicles, Goodman told members of the Commission at their July 10 meeting.
“What ofttimes looks like a viable alternative, has a lot of cost considerations and negatives,” Goodman said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.
Goodman said he’s working on narrowing down his list of potential candidate sites and hopes that the the subcommittee he’s leading could bring a recommendation to the full Commission this fall. From Parks & Rec, the approval process will require multiple public hearings and sign-off from bodies including the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Town Council and likely the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Officials have said in the past that the rink would operate from late-November through February for two trial seasons in order to gauge public interest, costs and appropriate rink size, and that out-of-towners would be charged higher admission fees than residents.
Even the sites that appear to be candidates now have some drawbacks to consider, Goodman said.
For example, the Farm Road fields are on school property, and school not only is in session through the winter, but often host evening and weekend events as it is. The parking lot next to Waveny’s Orchard Field tends to be very windy in the winter, and the area that’s being located at in Kiwanis Park—below the preschool where a lot now stands—gets use before Christmas because the Exchange Club of New Canaan sells its trees there as part of a major fundraiser for the service organization.
Yet “this potential conflict hopefully could be resolved because it would seem the two efforts could coexist in a synergistic fashion,” Goodman said.
A chance to ice skate while visiting Santa and buying a Christmas tree could all contribute to a nice family outing where each piece “mutually reinforces” the other, he said. One question regarding Kiwanis as a contender is “how to squeeze these two activities [ice rink and Christmas tree sale] in a way that is synergistic and not antagonistic.”
Goodman said that although there are wetlands at Kiwanis Park, they would not present a significant problem for the specific area that’s being looked at as a possible site for the ice rink. That’s different from the New Canaan Nature Center site, where encroaching wetlands are a significant barrier that rules out the location, he said.
Commissioner Jack Hawkins said that Kiwanis “is maybe in the lead at this point.”
Goodman said he didn’t rank the potential sites, though he agreed that Kiwanis Park has “a lot of plusses.” For example, outside of the Nature Center with its greenhouse, Kiwanis is the only location that has a usable existing building with a a “very large overhang” that could house all of the accessory space needs, with the exception of a tent for the Zamboni.
Parks & Rec Chair Rona Siegel called Goodman’s research a “very impressive exploratory first round” and noted that he hadn’t ruled anything out in looking at options for a rink. The next step would be to narrow down the list to a handful of sites and start to get an idea of their relative advantages in terms of construction, electricity and other criteria.