Future site of synthetic ice rink still to be determined

Joe Murphy Jr. tries out the synthetic ice at a demonstration Wednesday morning for town officials. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

While officials were impressed with the demonstration of a synthetic ice skating rink Wednesday morning in downtown Riverhead, the question of where the best location would be for the rink is still undecided. 

The Business Improvement District Management Association has informally planned for the rink and pavilion in a section of the Peconic River parking lot near Riverhead Grill and the former West Marine building.

But after the demonstration, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman George Gabrielsen said they thought that location would take up too many parking spaces.

“We can’t give up that many parking spaces,” Mr. Walter said, indicating that downtown store owners need parking.

The pavillion/rink will take away nine parking spaces, officials said.

One alternative location discussed was the southern portion of the East End Arts Council property. The town owns that property but the decision would have to be made by the Arts Council, since the town signed an agreement giving it control of the land several years ago, according to Mr. Walter.

That agreement still has several more years on it, Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Gabrielsen said the town-owned parking lot just south of the former Sears parking lot is another potential location. The Sears lot itself is privately owned.

The BID envisions building a pavilion that would cover the synthetic ice rink and could also be used for concerts and events as well as for a permanent home the popular farmers markets that’s started last month on East Main Street.

The cost of the pavilion and rink is estimated to be between $250,000 and $350,000, according to Bill Allan, who took over as BID president after Ray Pickersgill accepted a job as BIDMA executive director.

Mr. Pickersgill said the BID already has a $100,000 county grant for use toward the project, and he said there are other grants available.

Officially, the Town Board is in charge of the BID and sets its budget, but the BID management association makes the day-to-day decisions for the BID.

Mr. Gabrielsen said the decision on the pavillion/rink will probably be made by the BIDMA with input from the Town Board.

Mr. Gabrielsen’s son Rob tested the ice rink during the demonstration along with his wife, Janice, both of whom are ice skaters. Smart Sports Surfacing sells the product and Joe Murphy Jr. demonstrated skating as well.

Rob Gabrielsen, who plays ice hockey, said the synthetic rink is slower than real ice, something Mr. Murphy said will always be the case, although he said the more use it gets, the faster it becomes.

The synthetic ice can be used year-round and avoids the big costs associated with real ice rinks for things like electricity and for buying a Zamboni to resurface the ice, said Joe Murphy Sr., who owns the company.

The synthetic ice also is environmentally safe and won’t be damaged by water, he said. The rink comprises four-by-four foot sections that fit together.

The rink on display was about 49 feet long by 15 feet wide, Mr. Murphy Sr. said. The rink the BID envisions buying would be about 120 feet long and 60 feet wide, and a regulation ice hockey rink would be about 200 feet long and 80 feet wide, he said.

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