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Peconic Hockey Foundation pitches plan to build ice hockey rink at Veterans Memorial Park

The Peconic Hockey Foundation is hoping to build an ice hockey rink on Riverhead Town land at Vitenam Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton.

Troy Albert, the president of the nonprofit Peconic Hockey Foundation, pitched the idea via Zoom at Thursday’s Town Board work session. 

Ray Coyne, the town’s parks and recreation superintendent, said discussions with the foundation related to a rink have been ongoing for a few years.

“The closest hockey rink is in Hauppauge and that’s The Rinx,” he said.

He said kids from the East End still travel to play at The Rinx.

“That’s a long trip for people, but hockey is a growing sport here,” he added.

Mr. Albert said he had spoken to Riverhead officials in 2015, when they were just getting started.

The foundation started with things like buying “floor ball” sticks for kids. Floor ball is like street hockey, he said. They spent about $30,000 on those sticks, and they’ve also been receiving donations of used hockey equipment, he said.

“The next thing we did, was we realized that hockey is an expensive sport, so we started a scholarship program and raised money,” he said. They have raised about $25,000 per year for kids on Long Island, Mr. Albert said.

There next goal was to have a rink on the East End, he said.

There are now high school teams in Southampton, Manorville and even Riverhead, he said. In 2018, the Seacats — a mix of Riverhead Blue Waves and Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats — played their first games in the Suffolk County High School Hockey League.

Among the group’s backers are John Ledecky, the co-owner of the New York Islanders, who has donated money to the foundation.

Mr. Albert said they need about five acres, and once they have the land he believes they can build the rink for about $1.5 million to $2 million.

He’s worked with attorneys and construction companies, who have pledged their help toward the project.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked how the town would make its land available.

If the town were to sell the five acres, it would constitute an alienation of park land, and would need state approval.

A long-term lease is another option. Community Development Agency director Dawn Thomas said that would have to undergo a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing.

Officials said the rink could bring visitors to the town who would use local hotels and restaurants.

The land in question is not part of the land the town is in contract to sell to Calverton Aviation & Technology, Ms. Giglio said.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said about 15 years ago he and his brother-in-law, who ran a hockey rink in Great Neck, looked into owning an ice rink as an investor and found that the reoccurring energy costs were “astronomical.”

Mr. Albert said they are not looking to profit from the rink.

He said they have no issue with a 99-year-lease or whatever works best for the town.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said the town will have to work out the operational costs but said that he’s “100% for” the project. “The number of kids here in Riverhead who travel west is incredible.”

He said he’s heard people talking about a hockey rink back more than 20 years ago when he run the Police Athletic League.

“I think it’s great,” Ms. Giglio said. She said the energy costs could be reduced with the use of solar and geothermal energy.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said the town had discussed multiple sports being at EPCAL in the past.