A proposal to build four ice rinks in Rye Brook could make for a highly competitive 2013-14 hockey season in Westchester County, where already-packed skating venues are busier than ever -- especially after storm damage from Hurricane Sandy took Playland's Ice Casino out of the lineup.
The 140,000-square-foot sports facility, which would be the largest skating destination in the county and among the largest in the region, is on the drawing boards for sprawling Reckson Executive Park. The 79.5-acre office complex is home to two three-building office clusters at 1100 King St., barely five miles from Westchester County Airport and just across the street from Greenwich, Conn. The new ice palace would be built on a 31.5-acre parcel in an area bounded by Purchase College of the State State University of New York and the Doral Arrowwood resort hotel.
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Westchester County's hockey community is feeling both excited and stressed by potential options for the season, which starts right after Labor Day.
"There is a lot of uncertainty," said Rich Guberti, who is director for the Westchester Mariners youth hockey organization and also works with the junior hockey players at Westchester Dragons.
A public hearing for the future Reckson Sports Amenity is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Village Hall at 938 King St. There may be more hearings, depending on the village's review of additional documentation on traffic issues submitted by Reckson on Friday afternoon, Rye Brook Administrator Christopher Bradbury said.
Local officials also want to know more about Reckson's stated interest in further developing the site, which has not been detailed.
"That's one of the questions we all have," Bradbury said.
William Null, Reckson's attorney, did not return multiple calls for comment.
The process to approve the project began at a Jan. 3 village planning board meeting where, by a 4-2 vote, a section of the Reckson property that originally was approved for a 280,000-square-foot office complex was rezoned. Instead of offices, it will be built out with four National Hockey League regulation-sized, 200-feet-by-85-feet ice rinks, lockers, changing facilities and 244 parking spaces.
PLAYLAND STILL A PLAYER?
If built, Reckson would be entering a hockey community that is in flux because Sandy caused such extensive damage to Playland Ice Casino in Rye, that the granddaddy of Westchester venues immediately shut down after the Oct. 29 superstorm.
To reopen, the 84-year-old National Historic Landmark building needs to spend $4 million on fixing its dome-shaped wooden roof and replacing several boilers that were flooded under 5-foot surges from the Long Island Sound, said Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of the Westchester County Parks Department.
"The goal is to reopen in September but we don't know if it's going to happen yet ... it's not an easy fix," he said.
After Playland's closing, Guberti's 12 teams were among those suddenly homeless. He said he managed to cobble together a schedule that scattered his brood among other sites -- Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon, Hommocks Ice Rink in Larchmont and Delfino Park's Ebersole Ice Rink in White Plains.
With tryouts starting soon for the new season, he is weighing his options. He is worried that neither Reckson nor Playland can guarantee a September opening date, and he is talking to other sites. "We're being courted every day," Guberti said.
If the Reckson proposal passes muster with Rye Brook officials, it will enter a robust Westchester ice rink market of both less expensive public sites and pricer private facilities. Rates can range from $200 an hour for ice time after midnight at the Yonkers-owned outdoor Edward J. Murray Memorial Skating Rink to $575 during prime time at Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford. Nearly all are open seven days a week and say they are 90-100 percent booked for the September-to-February hockey season.
Even though Reckson is so close to Connecticut, the odds are it will not attract many customers from across the border, said rink manager Denis McKiernan from the Terry Conners Rink in Stamford. In 2012, two rinks came on line at the new Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford as an expansion of the highly popular Manhattan-based Chelsea Piers New York sports and entertainment operation. The Sono Ice House in Norwalk also opened in 2012.
"In this area up here, we probably have as many rinks as we need right now," McKiernan said. "I don't think there's a need for four more sheets of ice."
The real marketing pressure comes during the rest of the year, the spring and summer offseason, rink managers say as they wait to see if Reckson plans to stay open year-round or close during the warm weather months. But Dean Hall, manager of Elmsford's Westchester Skating Academy, said his operation feels ready to meet any challenges a new four-rink player might bring.
"Anytime you add four sheets of ice in the area, it's always going to bring competition," he said. "But when I look at the area, there's always going to be demand."