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Battery Park City Ice Rink Plan Running Out of Time

By Julie Shapiro | March 25, 2011 11:22am
The popular skating rink on the Battery Park City ballfields in the winter of 2009-10.
The popular skating rink on the Battery Park City ballfields in the winter of 2009-10.
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Josh Williams/DNAinfo

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

BATTERY PARK CITY — Time is running out for an ice rink in Battery Park City next winter.

Residents and local officials are still debating potential sites for the rink, and unless they make a decision soon, it may be too late to find an operator.

"If we were to issue a [request for proposals] today, we'd be cutting it close to get the rink for this winter," said Jeff Galloway, chairman of Community Board 1's Ball Fields Taskforce, at a meeting Thursday night. "To get it done the way everyone seems to want to have it done would take more time."

CB1 and the Battery Park City Authority plan to hold a public meeting April 5 to get community input on the rink, so they can move closer to a decision on the details of the proposal.

The biggest question is: Where the rink will go? The simplest option would be to put the rink on half of the Battery Park City ball fields, so that half of the fields can stay open to sports leagues and after-school programs that want to use the fields during the winter.

Under that scenario, the rink would measure 165 feet by 85 feet, which is smaller than a regulation hockey rink of 200 feet by 80 feet, but it would still be big enough for hockey games, lessons and open skating.

But Mark Costello, a director of Downtown Little League, said the sports leagues may not want to give up even half the field during the winter, especially if the rink contract runs multiple years. The Battery Park City Authority is installing artificial turf on the fields this summer, which will make it possible for kids to play on the fields year-round for the first time.

"You're robbing Peter to pay Paul," Costello said at a meeting Thursday night "You're putting a community use on top of another community use."

Costello wants to see the rink in another location, like Rockefeller Park in northern Battery Park City.

But Gayle Horwitz, president of the authority, said she is unsure that the landfill beneath the park can support the weight of a rink.

"We're not going to spend $1 million to fortify something to build a skating rink," Horwitz said. "That's not the best use of our resources."

The residents and the authority also have to decide on the rink's hours and how much of that time will be devoted to community uses, as opposed to revenue-producing ones.

It's a tricky balance, which failed the first time the authority tried to open a rink on the ball fields in 2009. The operator that year lost a lot of money and backed out of a multi-year contract.

The authority does not plan to subsidize the rink, which means the operator would likely have to bring in corporate sponsors to make it viable, Horwitz said. Finding sponsors takes time, which adds to the urgency of releasing a request for proposals, she said.

The public meeting on the rink will be held at 6 p.m. April 5 at 1 World Financial Center, 24th floor.