Parks & Rec Reviews Town-Owned Properties as Possible Sites for Future Ice Rink 


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. 

10 thoughts on “Parks & Rec Reviews Town-Owned Properties as Possible Sites for Future Ice Rink 

  1. Building an ice rink at town expense on currently undeveloped parkland when unused ice time is available at a public facility located a stone’s throw away does not strike me as sensible for many reasons. Nor can such a project be squared with the incessant drumbeat to impose fiscal austerity on the Board of Education at the expense of our students, teachers, and school administrators. With respect and appreciation for the time devoted to our town by the members of the Commission, I hope that this idea will be tabled.

  2. Any estimates on total cost of this lovely project? Allowance for sure-to-be unseen difficulties? During winter holidays many families go skiing or to beaches. Those who like ice skating can go just down the road to the Darien Ice Rink or join the Winter Club. A trial of two seasons before you know if this is viable? If it isn’t, then what a waste of money spent better on road repair or helping those in need. It is a lovely thought, but is it really worth it?

    • Lillian
      I checked the distance between Kiwanis Park to the Darien Ice Rink with MapQuest. It’s 4.3 miles and a 10 minute drive. The trial run will be approximately 8 weeks long and will run during the time that the Exchange Club sells their trees.

      To answer your question about cost, according to New Canaanite – January 23, 2019:
      “An estimated $300,000 would need to be raised for the trial alone….

      Should that trial prove successful, (P+R Commissioner) Goodman said in his summary, “then additional private donations would be required to purchase the capital equipment and materials necessary for a more permanent rink. “

      “The amount needed ranges from about $380,000 to $550,000,” he said, adding: “Hopefully town assistance would be in the $6,000 to $10,000 range per year.”

      Hopefully, our taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill for any surprise overruns like the $850,000 Athletic Field project.

  3. There also are two indoor ice rinks 4.1 miles from Kiwanis Park at Stamford Twin Rinks. There is no compelling need for another ice rink, nor can the expense be justified.

  4. A location with significant Power, Bathrooms/changing rooms, Snack Bar, Parking, Winter Availability, gatehouse/ticket facility. Proximate location. Keeping OpenSpace,

    Find an impervious empty parking lot next to this type of town facility.

    Here’s an example:

    The Waveny Pool Parking Area is empty all winter. The paddle/Dog-Run parking is usually empty. What if the the town regrades the Pool Parking area and add winter canvas walls to the colonnade to connect the Bathrooms and Entry/Kitchen and add rubber skate mats.

    • Chris,

      BINGO! I don’t think that Parks and Rec Commission ever thought of those locations! Neither sites are in a residential area like Kiwanis. Good thinking! And no need to disrupt the Exchange Club Tree Sale when Kiwanis is packed with trees, cars, visitors.

  5. Betty,

    While I appreciate your ability to calculate distances and deep concern for the Exchange Club’s tree sale, should we note here for transparency’s sake that you’re a direct neighbor of Kiwanis Park?

  6. Yes, I am a direct neighbor. However, Mr. Hering points out an interesting site that I don’t believe was considered by P+R. New Canaanite has reported P+R meetings where possible sites mentioned were: Kiwanis Park, two sports fields along Farm Road at the high school, artificial turf fields near the water towers, the parking lot south of the softball Orchard Field at Waveny and the Nature Center near the greenhouse.

    The Exchange Club Tree Sale was mentioned by me during the July P+R meeting with my address duly noted. At that time a commissioner remarked that the skating rink would boost tree sales and that the trial run proposed was from mid-November through February. When I mentioned to the commissioners that the during the past 20 years, tree sales jumped from 500 to 1300, some commissioners looked surprised.

    Any resident who visits the Exchange Club Tree Sale especially during the weekends when Old Faithful fire truck provides rides for children; SLOBS and dozens of volunteers help with the sales; knows that the Kiwanis is very busy from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas eve.

    And yes, Mike, you are absolutely correct. For over 20 years my family has a deep concern for the Exchange Club Tree Sale— we voluntarily watch the lot (about 20 to 35 hours per week); contact the police as needed, made marketing recommendations to the Exchange Club that they implemented, notified DPW when the lot is icy so that members and visitors can make purchases safely, and have even sold trees and wreaths. We provide their members with hot cocoa for at least the past 10 years. Finally, pizzas and sandwiches were ordered and paid by us in the past.

  7. Maybe I’m missing something, but Irwin Park sure seems to have a lot of level space and plenty of parking? If they can have baseball games there, why not ice skating? I think having a great local outdoor skating location is an amazing idea. Not having to join the Winter Club, or go to neighboring towns to use their rinks is an added bonus. And while it is always nice to have an indoor rink option like the Stamford Twin Rinks, who doesn’t love a great outdoor rink come holiday time? In terms of “who pays for it” have they considered a tiered option of winter passes, day passes, local business sponsored subsidized free skate times, etc like they do with the Waveny pool, Mead tennis courts and Waveny dog run? A great public skating rink in New Canaan is a win for everyone. And while we’re at it, let’s have a broomball league!

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