By Kathryn G. Menu
Wearing a New York Rangers jersey, last Thursday Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst remembered all too well the journey East End parents of children interested in year round hockey or figure skating have to endure. Generally, their commitment involves driving their kids to the Rinx in Hauppauge, often as early as 4 a.m., via the Long Island Expressway.
“I am sure that hasn’t changed,” she said. “But only increased.”
If Southampton Youth Services (SYS) proves successful, skaters may soon have a rink to call their own.
Last Thursday, members of SYS presented preliminary plans to the Southampton Town Board for an indoor ice rink at the SYS athletic facility at North Sea Park. SYS Director Scott Johnson made the pitch on behalf of the SYS board of directors, who were also on hand for the presentation.
“We have been talking to people for a couple years and this kind of started to heat up more recently than not,” said Johnson, referring to an earlier proposal by a separate business to build an ice rink with SYS.
While that proposal waned, Johnson said SYS has looked at other options and believes it has settled on a plan at least worth exploring financially.
Originally, said Johnson, SYS looked to the Southampton School District and a nine-acre parcel next to the SYS property that was donated to the school district by Tony Panza, one of the developers of the Courtyards townhouses on Major’s Path. However, said Johnson, the school district was not interested in selling the property, preferring to lease it for no longer than 10 years at a time, making it unviable for the project.
As a “plan b,” Johnson said SYS looked towards the town-owned athletic field, which he said was somewhat underutilized and has parking nearby. SYS could commit, he added, if the project moves forward, to develop a multi-use field on SYS property for town use.
The initial proposal calls for a two-rink facility, although Johnson noted that could change depending on how cost estimates work out. Johnson said eventually SYS would like to see school hockey teams develop using the rink. Camp programs, figure skating and accommodating everyone from toddlers to seniors interested in getting on the ice is a priority, said Johnson, as will be operating the rink on a year round basis.
SYS board members said they want to make sure they can run the facility under the umbrella of the youth organization, rather than contract the rink out to another management company as it does at its main facility, which is run by Future Stars.
Board president Mark Antilety noted the cost, and time associated with a feasibility study on the financial ability for SYS to move forward with a formal plan for an ice rink, has been reduced because of previous efforts to build a rink associated with the organization. The next step is a feasibility study, which Antilety said they hope to complete in the next two to three months.
Board members largely supported the idea, although Councilman Chris Nuzzi said he looked forward to the feasibility study results and Councilman Jim Malone urged the board to ensure any lost town parkland was made up for in another location.
“Prioritizing ice where we have not been able to prioritize ice anywhere else is a really, really good thing for us,” said Throne-Holst.