Sample ice rink coming to downtown Riverhead next week

The sample rink will be  set up at 117 East Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
The sample rink will be set up at 117 East Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A synthetic ice rink is coming to downtown Riverhead next week.

But don’t head to Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up that new pair of skates just yet.

The rink is coming to town in the form of a 20 x 40-foot sample that’s going to be set up Monday or Tuesday inside the empty East Main Street building that’s been hosting the downtown farmers market.

The rink will only be around for a few days, and only for business and political leaders as they try the product out before the farmers market sets up shop again Saturday.

After years of testing and research, downtown’s Business Improvement District president, Ray Picksergill, said he believes he’s found the best synthetic ice surface around.

The product, FunICE, is made in Slovenia and its exclusive U.S. dealer, Smart Sport Surfacing operates out of Amagansett. (See video below.)

“The company has a really nice product,” Mr. Picksergill said. “There’s no oils that get sprayed onto it or built into it. It’s a real slippery product, so it makes it great for ice skating. And to prove it to me, he’s going to set up a rink, 20-by-40, inside the farmer’s market.”

The BID’s management association, which Mr. Pickersgill heads, has been planning since 2011 to get a synthetic rink built downtown in the area of riverfront parking lot behind the Riverhead Diner & Grill, near the existing municipal bathrooms.

“The beauty of this stuff is that they have a cover for it too,” he said. “So you can either pick it up or leave it. If we do the ice skating rink and cover it, we can do like, sliding glass doors around it, then we can use that building for the indoor farmers market.”

The rink would cost about $250,000, Mr. Picksergill said, leaving the project still about $100,000 short at this time.

Joseph Murphy, the owner of Smart Sport Surfacing, which constructs tennis courts, turf fields and other playing surfaces, said the product is “absolutely the best in the world.”

“And to be honest, of any customer I’ve dealt with, Ray has really done his homework,” he said. “I’ve been following what’s going on in Riverhead, and what’s great is that they’re already sold on the concept [of synthetic ice] already. A lot of time it’s hard to sell the concept that it’s not real ice.”

The other challenges for his company, he said, is that people who have experienced lesser-quality synthetic ice were probably left with a negative impression.

“They’re so bad that you get a bad taste,” Mr. Murphy said. “I’ll have people coming up, saying they had tried it and their kids were filled with oil and all the pieces of plastic were all over them. With us, the gliding characteristics are manufactured into the plate.”

He also said that unlike with other products, regular ice hockey or figure skates can be used on FunICE, as well as roller skates.

“You can rollerblade, because there are no oils,” he said. “This way if you can’t ice skate, you’re not out of the game.”

But, he acknowledged, the best way for him to sell his product is for people to try it for themselves.

“It’s hard to be the lone man out in the field screaming, ‘Mine is so much better,'” he said. “So, you gotta put it down so they can see it and feel it.”

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