Private Group Seeks Permission to Display Advertising in Makeshift Ice Rink at Public Park


Parks officials are seeking permission from New Canaan’s legislative body to forgo enforcement of a local ordinance that prohibits advertising in public parks.

The Parks & Recreation Commission voted at its meeting last week in favor of allowing a private group to run “dashboard” ads inside a makeshift ice rink that’s planned for Waveny. 

Though the advisory Parks & Rec Commission supported allowing the ads last year—despite concerns voiced then-Recreation Director Steve Benko—the discussion never was vetted by the Town Council because the makeshift rink itself never materialized.

Gene Goodman—a principal of the private group behind the rink, NC Rink Inc, according to Connecticut Secretary of the State records—said the ads themselves would be six feet wide by 2.5 feet high.

“If you were standing at the perimeter of the dasher boards which will be about four feet high or so, you will be able to see it,” Goodman said during the Nov. 9 Parks & Rec meeting, held in Lapham Community Center. “But if you are driving by on the road you wouldn’t see it.”

The makeshift rink is to be installed near the parking lot alongside the Orchard Field at Waveny, where New Canaan Softball has its games.

The rink would have a banner on the outside calling it “Boucher Community Ice Rink” in recognition of a $100,000 grant from a twice-defeated GOP state Senate candidate (Goodman is also treasurer of the Republican Town Committee, according to that volunteer group’s website). The project also recently received a $200,000 grant from the state. The advertising is expected to bring in $15,000 per year, Goodman said.

Parks & Rec Chair George Benington said the dasher boards are “tasteful advertising.”

“No tobacco, alcohol, firearms,” he said. “And it’s just on the interior of the boards, there’s no banners or anything that might—because advertising in parks is a very touchy subject.”

In fact, it is prohibited by a town ordinance.

Under Section 42-8(G) of the Town Code, “No person shall distribute any handbills or circulars or post any bills, notices or advertising matter of any kind and nature in any park.”

Commissioner Rona Siegel noted the ordinance during the meeting. 

“This may need to go to the Town Council first for approval so that it can have ultimate approval so you might want to double, triple check,” she said.

Benington said he spoke that day to the head of the Town Council Bylaws & Ordinances Committee “and he brought this ordinance up.”

“I think we need to express what our vote is and then if we need to send it to the Town Council for their final approval then so be it,” Benington said.

It isn’t clear whether the Town Council has the power to decide in what situations it can grant organizations the ability to forego ordinances. Normally, when residents object to an ordinance, the matter is referred to the Bylaws & Ordinances Committee for review. 

It also isn’t clear to what extent allowing the private ice rink group to advertise will open up the town to advertising from other groups in the park, or to liability problems if those groups are denied. 

The ads would run in the ice rink from November through February, Benington said.

Goodman said it’s “debatable” whether temporary advertising is allowed in the park, and suggested that the ice rink ads could fall into an allowable category. Goodman also said the softball field had a banner up thanking corporate sponsors for their support. (Last year, Benko noted that such single banners are different from individual ads plastered about sports facilities in the park.)

Parks & Rec Commissioner Keith Richey declared that the ice rink ads would not be setting precedent, though he offered no information beyond the declaration itself. 

Richey suggested that the ads would not be problematic because they would be low-exposure, saying of Waveny in the winter, “There are not that many people walking around in there anyhow.”

Though Goodman is principal of NC Rink Inc. and presented the item to Parks & Rec, he did not recuse himself from voting on the matter as a commissioner himself. In fact, Goodman made the motion to support the advertising in the public park, with the caveat that if Town Council approval is required, it will be obtained. The other commissioners at the meeting—Benington, Richey, Siegel, Francesca Segalas, Jake Granito, Susan Lione, Steve Haberstroh and Hank Green—voted in favor. (Commissioner Matt Konspore was absent.)

The Town Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The NC Rink Inc. advertising matter is not on its meeting agenda.

[Note: This article has been updated with the full list of Parks & Rec commissioners voting in favor of the motion.]

13 thoughts on “Private Group Seeks Permission to Display Advertising in Makeshift Ice Rink at Public Park

  1. Some information on Toni Boucher left out – yes she has lost two elections but she also served as a state senator for 10 years before that.

  2. Why did the parks & rec commission approve advertising when it is clearly prohibited at Waveny by the town ordinance?

    Under Section 42-8(G) of the Town Code, “No person shall distribute any handbills or circulars or post any bills, notices or advertising matter of any kind and nature in any park.”

    Will the advertising fund the operating expenses of the ice rink or does the town pay for those expenses?

  3. It was obvious that eventually the Ice Rink would be looking for money to fund the operation. They have been making the public speaking tour, I’ve seen it at both the NCMC and the Exchange Club meetings.

    Their appeal is in blatant disregard of current town ordinances and to “ forgo “ them is against the intent and desire of Waveny’s existence, not to mention Steve Benko’s wishes.

    This is an affront to the very nature of the park, it is NOT to be an “amusement park atmosphere” but one that allows one to engage in recreation/ nature and not be confronted with a myriad of commercial enterprises.

    The quiet peacefulness and tranquility of the park has to be protected and defended, thus we have town ordinances to do so.
    Why anyone would want to disturb what little space we have, due to the increasing density our town, has left me mystified.

    Buildings recently completed and ones in the planning stages have and will exacerbate the density.

    I strongly urge you to pay attention to Ms Siegel’s citation and adhere to the intent, wishes, ordinances and welfare of our wonderful town.

  4. “Tasteful advertising.” Hmmm. There’s a pairing of words that leaves much to interpretation.

    Are we talking ads for sconces and monogrammed neckerchiefs? Using cursive typeface or floral prints? I believe dull debate topics such as this are what led to the town creating a blanket “no ads ever” policy.

    And saying “no tobacco, alcohol or firearms” isn’t really setting much of a “tasteful” bar in the first place, especially since tobacco advertising is illegal altogether.

    I think when it comes to a park skating rink, the ad that doesn’t exist is the most tasteful of them all.

  5. I was in attendance at this month’s meeting and Park & Recreation Commissioner Jake Granito also voted to allow for advertising on the Ice Rink boards. If not mistaken, Mr Granito is also a member of the New Canaan Ice Rink Inc group and should have recused himself from that action.

    Mr. Goodman and Mr. Granito should have both recused themselves from this action as it’s troubling when town Commissions vote on items that benefit their private interests. There were ample votes to carry this action forward without raising the appearance of a conflict of interest.

  6. It is outrageous that Jake Granito and Gene Goodman did not recuse themselves from the P&R vote re advertising at the rink when they are members of the New Canaan Ice rink group.
    Two other notes: Keith Richey, there are many people who walk/dog walk/snowshoe/cross-country ski in Waveny in the winter, and, second, who would police the ads for “tastefulness”? A town employee applying Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart approach to pornography (I know it when I see it)? P&R itself?

  7. Once you make ad space available it becomes subject to the rules of free speech. That means almost anyone can advertise almost anything. I doubt the town wants that. I would prefer to see Waveny protected from advertising.

  8. Kindly note that the topic of the ice rink dasher board ads will be discussed
    ***********Tuesday, November 22, 2022 at 7pm *************

    New Canaan Town Council
    Meeting of Bylaws and Ordinance Committee

    Zoom Only:
    Meeting ID: 835 4643 0914
    Passcode: 769652

    Consideration of a proposal by Parks & Recreation Commission that the Town Council revise Section 42-8(G) of the Town Code to permit advertising on the dasher boards of Boucher Community Ice Rink.

    The current language is: “No person shall distribute any handbills or circulars or post any bills, notices or advertising matter of any kind and nature in any park.”
    Please zoom in or email your comments to: 

    The TC Bylaws and Ordinance members are:

    Tom Butterworth and Hilary Ormond (co-chairs)
    Kimberly Norton
    Mark Grzymski
    Maria Naughton
    Cristina Ross
    Rita Bettino  = is also a member of New Canaan Ice Rink Inc

    The dasher ads would be approximately 7.5 feet x 2.5 feet according to Ice Rink member Tom O’Dea’s comment during the November 2021 Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting

  9. Can someone in these comments please name one ice rink that doesn’t have advertisements on the boards? Looking at the project from outside. The creators of the project have worked overtime to get this done for two seasons.
    I will be thrilled to take my daughter there to skate. Advertisements or not..

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