Though they haven’t yet recommended a specific trial site, those pursuing an open-air ice rink in New Canaan are readying to purchase used equipment for the facility that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday approved a request to put $7,500 in privately raised funds held in a town account toward a 60-by-120-foot ice rink and accessory equipment. The non-refundable deposit is for a rink that the Fairfield County Hunt Club is selling for $75,000, according to Gene Goodman, who has spent more than one year as a member of the Parks & Recreation Commission spearheading efforts to study what would be needed to create an outdoor rink facility and where it may go.
“Having looked at every site in this town, every site has its plusses and minuses,” Goodman told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall. “No one is an absolute clear hands-down winner. There [are] also questions about wetlands, and the usual Planning & Zoning and everything else. I have been to those administrative bodies to discuss this with them—Wetlands, a [Health Department] sanitarian, Planning & Zoning—and they all indicate that in general the sites we are talking about don’t raise red flags. Not to say that that guarantees approval by the actual commissions. It’s not. But administratively speaking, it seems to be very doable.”
There’s about $10,000 in New Canaan’s “Ice Rink Special Project Fund,” thanks to private fundraising efforts led by town resident Tom O’Dea about 10 years ago.
The depositor for the Hunt Club’s gear would be the town of New Canaan, Goodman said.
“It will go on the market—it could be there September at reduced price, it could be gone,” Goodman said.
“If we do not go down this route, we lose $7,500,” he added. “On the opposite side, if not, we lose an opportunity to perhaps save $200,000.”
Kiwanis Park emerged last summer as a leading contender for a seasonal rink site in New Canaan that would be open to the public from late November through February with an admission charge. The Old Norwalk Road park is attractive, officials have said, in that it has sufficiently large areas for the rink as well as, parking, access to bathrooms, running water and electricity, and structures that could house changing areas, snack bar and skate shop. It’s unclear just where within Kiwanis Park the rink would go, officials said during a Dec. 10 meeting of a Parks & Rec skating subcommittee. (Goodman said during Tuesday’s meeting that he wasn’t representing the Commission, but rather “a group of citizens who are working to establish an open-air seasonal recreational ice rink”—it’s unclear whether they’ve met out of the public eye since Dec. 10.)
Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams voted 2-0 in favor of the spending request. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan was absent.
“I think this is a terrific idea—I grew up in a town with a skating rink,” said Williams, a 1980 graduate of Barrington High School in Rhode Island.
The selectmen asked how sure Goodman is that the equipment is in good shape (there’s no guarantee on the 12-year-old compressor), what is the average life of a compressor like this (20 to 25 years), to what extent the rink would be weather-dependent (it could close for a period due to heavy snow or overly warm weather), whether New O’Dea is supportive of the expenditure (yes), who would pay for problems with a compressor (depends on the issue), whether the other $2,500 in the Fund could be used for transport (yes), where the equipment would be stored in the offseason (not clear, could be somewhere in Kiwanis, Irwin Barn or a trailer), whether the rink would be self-supporting (that’s the goal), how much people would pay to use it (about $12 per day with additional options for season passes) and whether non-residents would be able to use it (yes, similarly to Waveny Pool).