Where should an outdoor ice rink be put in New Canaan?
NEW CANAAN — The town now has its own outdoor ice rink.
Where it will be set up and how it will be operated still needs to be decided.
The Board of Selectmen Tuesday released $2,500 from funds donated in 2006 to move the makings of an outdoor rink from the Fairfield County Hunt Club.
State Rep. Thomas P. O’Dea, acting outside of his official capacity, raised the $42,500 balance to finalize the purchase by the Nov. 13 deadline. On Tuesday, he asked the Board of Selectmen permission to spend the $2,500 to relocate the equipment to somewhere in New Canaan.
O’Dea was coaching youth basketball in 2006 when a player arrived at an 8 a.m. practice in hockey gear. O’Dea said he joked with the boy that he might be lost, but the player explained he was returning from an early morning practice in Shelton.
“I thought that was crazy,” O’Dea said.
Even though none of his children skated or played hockey, O’Dea organized donors who contributed to an outdoor rink, which was eventually put on hold, and the money was given to the Board of Selectmen for future use.
Last winter, O’Dea and others involved with the rink talked to the Fairfield County Hunt Club, which was selling its outdoor rink in Westport, and placed a deposit on the club’s equipment. When other offers came in, the Hunt Club agreed to honor its agreement if the New Canaan group could close the deal by Nov. 13.
O’Dea told selectmen he raised the $42,500 needed, and the rink group now owns everything needed to set it up — it just has not decided where. Once here, it will be stored until a location is found.
The 60-foot by 120-foot surface is smaller than a National Hockey League regulation rink, but it could be used for practice, young children being introduced to the sport, and for open skate sessions, which O’Dea said is where commercial rinks make their money.
“Assuming you raise enough money to purchase skates and a trailer,” he said. “It’s something we definitely want to do.”
The New Canaan Winter Club, as well as boys and girls teams at New Canaan High School, support the plan, which O’Dea said will not involve taxpayer money.
“The goal is to be a self-sufficient, no-debt ice rink somewhere in town for the benefit of the community,” he said.
New Canaan Ice Rink has registered with the state as a nonprofit to operate the facility, but has not received its 501c3 status yet.
“It will be owned by the nonprofit, placed on town property,” O’Dea said. “Theoretically, we could rent the property. However the town wants to utilize it is fine by use.
“There will be no cost to the town for the cost of operation or the cost of the purchase,” he added, “so no cost to taxpayers.”
Organizers want to raise enough for three years of operation as soon as possible, estimating an annual cost of $25,000 to $30,000 for the three months each year the rink would operate.
The cost to establish the site depends on the work needed to make the rink work, including grading and running electrical power to the area.
One area examined was near the paddle tennis hut in Waveny Park, which offers indoor facilities such as restrooms and a place for parents to wait.
Sites near Lapham Center, including one of the artificial turf fields near the water tower, could also offer level land and existing indoor needs, as well as lights.
Mead Park offers the baseball outfield and tennis courts, O’Dea said, but said the courts are unlikely. The Fairfield County Hunt Club set the rink up on three of its clay tennis courts for eight years.
Kiwanis Park has an area near Old Norwalk Road, O’Dea said, another near the pavilion, and a third on the far side of the pond. However, when the possibility of an ice rink was last raised, neighbors of Kiwanis Park attended a Parks & Recreation Commission meeting to voice their objection and say they were not consulted, even though there had not been a proposal to locate the rink there.
“There’s a chance we could do it this year, but it’s unlikely,” O’Dea said of finding a site and setting up the rink. “It’s most likely for next year.”