We’re thrilled by the idea that was floated this week by SYS (Southampton Youth Services). It seems the recreational organization is looking to partner with Southampton Town to explore the notion of building a year-round, indoor ice skating rink in North Sea.
This has been a long time coming and it’s a great idea that we can get behind in a big way. As any parent of an active child out here has come to understand, despite the big ticket real estate and glitz and glamour of the summer version of the Hamptons, on the East End there are precious few year-round recreational opportunities for children to pursue many sports on a serious level.
Hockey and skating, it turns out, are two of them.
Yes, there is the Buckskill Winter Club in East Hampton, which is heavily used and well-loved by local aspiring hockey players and figure skaters who keep the place humming throughout the cold months.
But the possibilities there, while much needed, are very limited. Because it’s a winter-only outdoor facility, it’s entirely dependent upon the weather to operate. Snow closes it, as does rain, sleet and temperatures that are too mild, as many of us who had children using the facility in recent months, can attest.
And by spring, it’s all over. The rink reverts back to a tennis court and ice skating is just a memory until next winter — global warming permitted.
But if this plan is to become a reality, we’re talking about an indoor ice skating rink (possibly two) that could be used by the community on a year round basis.
And ice skating is not just for the fun of it. The possibility of serious hockey and figure skating opportunities being offered out here could go a long way toward giving our kids a chance to advance and compete in sports that have traditionally been off-limits to aspiring East End athletes not fortunate to have parents willing or able to drive them to the nearest indoor skating rink in Hauppauge.
And that’s just not OK. Especially when kids living in the population centers to our west are benefiting greatly from the accessibility of modern facilities and professional sports instruction that we on the East End can only dream of.
Does it matter? Yeah, it sure does. These are the same kids that will be competing against ours when it comes to college scholarship opportunities, the Olympics and professional sports. Being able to pursue the sport of your choice at the same level as others of your age in your geographical region is not an unreasonable expectation.
This all comes down to economics and ironically, it’s the very affluence of our area that makes public facilities like an ice rink (or an Olympic size public swimming pool) nearly impossible to create. With land values so high and area so limited, available parcels are just seen as too valuable to turn over to the goal of developing professional swimmers or skaters for that matter.
And as a result, it’s the year round aspiring athletes who suffer and that’s a price, we think, that is way too high.
So let’s hope that the Southampton Town Board and SYS can come up with a way to at least give a slight edge back to those hockey players and figure skaters who deserve a facility upon which to build their dream.