Long Beach leaders look to rehab ice rink

Public skating session at the Long Beach Ice Public skating session at the Long Beach Ice rink. (July 13, 2012)

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The weathered Long Beach Ice Arena, where the New York Rangers trained in the 1970s and generations of Long Beach children have learned how to skate, could soon have a new operator and a fresh look.

Long Beach, which owns and operates the 38-year-old bayfront facility, plans to issue a request for proposals from firms interested in partnering with the city to run the aging arena, city officials said.

City Council President Len Torres said the city will consider proposals from firms that want to manage the facility, purchase its naming rights, or partner with the city to refurbish it.

The city will probably issue the request for proposals by the fall, Torres said.

City leaders hope to revive the 32,500-square-foot arena, where a fading sign on its facade states "Long Beach Home Of The New York Rangers," a National Hockey League franchise that stopped practicing there in 1979.

"We're looking for investors, anything that is really a partnership with the city," Torres said, adding that the facility will remain open to the public. "It's got to be something that works for the city and provides a good return."

The 800-capacity arena needs cosmetic improvements and has some obsolete equipment, officials said.

The city, which is trying to climb out of a $10.25-million deficit, dedicated less money to the arena this year; the facility's budget dipped from $488,300 in fiscal 2010-11 to $231,300 this fiscal year.

Revenue also declined during the same period, from $657,890 in 2010-11 to an anticipated $465,000 this fiscal year.

But the arena, which has an NHL regulation-sized rink, remains a fixture in the community, said Bob Santini, who owns the New York Apple Core, a junior hockey club that plays there.

Santini, who operated the facility from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, said he doesn't think he would want to take on the challenge of revitalizing the arena but that it could be done.

"There is a lot of history there in that building," Santini said. "It just needs some tender loving care."

Long Beach's last attempt to contract out the arena landed the city in court. Former operator Bernard Shereck, who followed Santini, sued Long Beach in 2009 after the city evicted him from the facility for alleged nonpayment of $175,000 in rent.

The parties are due in Supreme Court in Nassau County on Aug. 3, and the case could be headed for trial, said Richard Cahn of Huntington, a lawyer for Shereck.

City officials hope the facility's future stabilizes, said councilman Scott Mandel.

"I'd like to see what's out there and what people can bring to the table if we offer it publicly for bid," Mandel said. "If there's a potential upside to it to explore, I'm for the conversation."

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