About $250,000 in unspent funds from Riverhead Town’s $707,000 sale of the Suffolk Theatre in 2005 could be used to build a synthetic ice skating rink in downtown Riverhead, Supervisor Sean Walter said Thursday.
The town also could get a $100,000 county grant for use on the rink project, he said.
The Riverhead Business Improvement District has proposed the rink on a location that’s in the riverfront parking lot near the unnamed road between Riverhead Diner and the former West Marine site.
Councilman George Gabrielsen had told the Town Board on Aug. 2 that the rink would initially be built without a roof. Ray Pickersgill, the president of the BID management association, estimated that the cost of the rink without the roof would be about $200,000, half of which would come from the grant.
But at a BID meeting last week, the management association said it felt the roof should be included, as the structure could also be used as a concert pavilion when it’s not used for skating.
The exact cost of the project with the roof has yet to be determined but will likely be in the $400,000 range, according to Martin Sendlewski, the BIDMA’s vice president as well as an architect who is working on the project. He said he is donating his services in designing the rink and pavilion.
Mr. Walter said the bulk of the money from the sale of the Suffolk Theatre was “swept” out of a capital account and used to offset taxes, but $250,000 was left. Town finance administrator Bill Rothaar had asked him Thursday morning, “just two minutes” before the town went into its work session, if he wanted to have that money put in a reserve fund, to which the supervisor agreed.
Mr. Walter said that during the work session discussion on the rink, “I changed my mind “ and got the idea to possibly apply that money toward the rink project.
The town still hasn’t officially received the $100,000 grant, which would come from the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization program, and would be allocated toward the rink.
A resolution to authorize Mr. Walter to sign a contract for that grant was tabled at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, so the board could discuss the project at Thursday’s work session before making a decision to move forward with the grant.
Mr. Pickersgill said he hopes to also obtain corporate sponsorships to pay for part of the rink construction, and he added that there is the possibility of obtaining another $100,000 grant for the project.
The BID will seeks bids on the cost of the project, and Mr. Sendlewski suggested the BID seek separate bids for the pavilion, the synthetic ice, and for the foundation and construction costs.
The BID initially planned a much larger rink proposal that would measure 65 feet by 100 feet, and would have required the comfort station behind the former Swezey’s store to be relocated. They have since reduced the size to about 50 feet by 80 feet, Mr. Sendlewski said.
That size facility would be able to accommodate about 60 skaters at one time as well as about 300 people if a concert were held there, Mr. Sendlewski said.
Mr. Gabrielsen said he doesn’t think the proposed rink is big enough but other Town Board members liked its proposed size.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio suggested the town bond the cost of the facility rather than trying to pay for it with “cash” the town has on hand.
Mr. Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten opposed that idea. Mr. Walter said the town’s bond rating would be negatively impacted by bonding the project because the town already will have to pay off a lot of debt from its landfill in the next few years.