AP NEWS

Greenwich breaks the ice on planning for new rink

February 1, 2018

GREENWICH — Greenwich is about to take its first step toward replacing the Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink. But before you break out your skates, the town wants to find out what residents and users want in a new facility.

The town’s proposed 2018-19 budget includes $30,000 for a facility evaluation study of the rink. The Board of Estimate and Taxation’s Budget Committee considered the request Thursday as part of its review of the proposed budget. Director of Parks and Recreation Joseph Siciliano said getting feedback is vital before proceeding with any design work.

“We want to get it right and we want to get it right once,” Siciliano said. “This is going to be a relatively expensive proposition for the town to build a new rink. And I think we want to take a look into the future, too, and see where we want to grow or at least address issues.”

The 48-year-old municipal rink is at the end of its useful life and is undersized by 15 feet for current hockey standards, according to Siciliano.

The plan is to get feedback from members of the community and stakeholders, such as hockey players, figure skaters and others who use the rink, he said. A committee has already been formed under town Recreation Division Superintendent Sue Snyder with town residents, rink staff as well as members of the Board of Parks and Recreation.

“We’re going to find out what we want to see in a new facility,” Siciliano said. “What are the components we’d like to see? Do we need two surfaces? Do we need one year-round surface and one part-time surface? The goal is to get all of that fleshed out.”

The department would then be in good position to budget the amount needed to design a new rink, Siciliano said.

“That makes a lot of sense,” BET Budget Committee Chairman Leslie Moriarty said. “That’s how school projects are done. You get the feasibility first and then move into design.”

The process would likely result in a “wish list” for a new ice rink, Moriarty said. Siciliano agreed but added it would then be his department’s job to pare the list down before going ahead with any designs.

BET member William Drake, the finance board’s liaison to the committee, said it was taking a careful approach to help “pilot the project to completion, whatever it is.”

BET Budget Committee member Leslie Tarkington asked whether a new rink was necessary with competition from facilities such as Chelsea Piers in Stamford. She also asked whether the demand for ice time could be met by other private rinks as well as nonprofits in the area.

The demand for ice time is real, Siciliano said, and the landmark rink, with a 48-year-old original slab in place for the ice, needs to be replaced. Brunswick School has not been able to share its ice, he said, and the Hamill Rink helped to serve other schools in town.

“This is not a time to postpone,” Siciliano said. “This is a time to move forward if we’re going to have a skating rink in Greenwich, Conn., in the future. I’m telling you, I do pray every fall that (the rink) works because there’s going to be a time where the infrastructure that is below ground is going to give out.”

The last study of the rink was completed in 2004, and Siciliano said the needs brought up back then have not been addressed.

Moriarty urged the committee to look at new requests and any unmet needs at other facilities. Siciliano said the mix of people on the committee would get the correct result.

“Obviously, as with all projects, not everyone is going to get everything they want,” he said.

First Selectman Peter Tesei has pushed for the project, and the study is the first step in the multiyear process of designing and building a new rink.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com