KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS – The world's largest indoor ice skating rink is coming to The Bronx.
The proposal to convert the vacant city landmark into a sports facility had been approved by the City Planning Commission, but had come under threat as Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera said he would withdraw his support for the plan unless developer Kingsbridge National Ice Center Partners LLC addressed lingering issues with the proposal, including traffic and parking.
But on Tuesday, Cabrera backed the proposal after securing reassurance that those concerns would be addressed. That would happen through a city-sponsored $250,000 “traffic mitigation fund” administered by the city’s Estate Planning Council to reduce area congestion, and through a $25,000 marketing campaign by KNIC Partners to encourage people to use public transit to access the rink.
“There was a stalemate,” Cabrera told DNAinfo New York before the final the vote. “We had outstanding issues that we were able to deal with.”
He said additional benefits to the community will include an assistance program for local businesses and scholarships for local artists to be established by the Bronx Museum of the Arts. These funds are in addition to already-negotiated community benefit agreements, Cabrera said.
“I’m very proud that I was able to get the administration and the developer to address the needs of the community,” Cabrera said. “I’m very excited. We’re going to have the biggest indoor ice-skating rink in the world and it’s right in my district.”
KNIC Partners will spend $275 million to install nine year-round ice rinks, including one with seats for 5,000 spectators, inside the armory. The developer also signed a 99-year lease, officials announced in April.
Kevin Parker, founder of KNIC Partners, called Tuesday's vote "a historic occasion for the Bronx, New York City and ice sports in the United States.
"The Kingsbridge National Ice Center is destined to awe and inspire, and take its rightful place alongside the City's world-class attractions," Parker said in a statement.
The 750,000-square-foot complex will include 50,000 square feet of community space, a wellness center and business incubator, as well as free ice skating and tutoring for children.
The ice center is set to create nearly 180 permanent jobs and 890 construction jobs, although elected officials had previously referred to 270 permanent jobs that pay at least $10 an hour with benefits.
There are only seven year-round ice rinks in New York City, and none of them are in The Bronx. Earlier proposals for the space had included a mixed-use complex with a marketplace, food court, cineplex, gym, rock-climbing wall and business incubator.
Officials said the complex is expected to attract 2 million visitors every year, significantly boosting the local economy. Last week, Bronx residents rallied on the steps of City Hall in support of the project.
The ice rink proposal earned the support of many, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The revitalization of the Kingsbridge Armory would add to the momentum that has been building in the Bronx,” Diaz and Bloomberg wrote in a joint editorial published by the Daily News ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “After years of hard work, a new era for the Kingsbridge Armory is within our reach — and so is a new chapter in the renaissance of the Bronx.”