The Town Board this week authorized an agreement with Peconic Hockey Foundation that allows the organization to build and operate an inflatable bubble dome ice rink at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton.
Under the terms of the 15-year agreement, unanimously approved by the board Tuesday evening, Peconic Hockey Foundation will donate the rink to the town in exchange for the right to occupy, operate and manage the facility on town-owned land.
The domed rink, approximately 120 feet by 225 feet in size, will be situated on an approximately 1.5-acre portion of the town park roughly opposite the dog park on the east side of the recreation trail, according to the contract and accompanying site plan drawing prepared by Peconic Hockey’s architect.
The value of the facility is estimated to be $1.5 million, the agreement states.
Riverhead residents with town recreation department passes will get discounted fees for use of the rink at certain times and/or for certain programs. Some programs will be offered free to town residents.
The agreement calls for the town to obtain all necessary permits for the construction of the rink facility and pay any fees associated with applications, inspections, surveys, environmental review and stormwater management associated with obtaining the approvals from state, county or town agencies.
The agreement also states, “The town shall be responsible for extending and installing necessary water and electric lines to serve the Facility.” The water and electric lines will be “extended from existing utilities on the Property to the License Premises, so that Licensee (Peconic Hockey) may make necessary connections.”
Council Member Ken Rothwell said “to clarify” that language in the contract, the town is going to extend water and electric to a bathroom facility it plans to construct on property adjacent to the rink site, on the east side of the bicycle path. Peconic Hockey can then “tag from that line” and run it down to their bubble, he said.
The contract requires the town to provide a bathroom to serve the facility, but Rothwell said the town is putting in bathrooms at EPCAL irrespective of the rink.
“I have worked for six months getting bathrooms at EPCAL,” Rothwell said in a phone interview Thursday.
The bathroom building, a pre-fabricated structure, will be two-sided, so bathrooms can be accessed from the bubble side as well as from the trail, Rothwell said.
The county health department previously rejected the town’s application to build a bathroom facility at the park near the ball fields, absent a connection to the Calverton sewage treatment plant. That connection is cost-prohibitive. The nearest sewer line is too far away and it would “cost millions of dollars to run pipe there,” Rothwell said.
After much wrangling, the town got permission from the health department to place portable lavatories at the ball fields, which opened in 2013.
He said the health department subsequently allowed Island Water Park, which is just north of the ball fields, to construct its facilities absent a sewer hookup because it is too far from the nearest sewer line.
“We’re basically doing what they’re doing on a smaller level,” Rothwell said.
Rothwell said Assistant Town Engineer Ken Testa has spoken to county health department staff and “they understand the urgency of trying to get this project done, so we can move things along.” Testa put together a septic system design that the county health officials will approve, Rothwell said.
The water line will be extended from the dog park, which is served by a one-inch line.
“The one-inch line is all that is necessary for the ice rink,” Rothwell said. “We’re going to tap off of that one-inch line, we’re going to bring it to the bathrooms, because there’s really minimal water usage — it’s just needed for the bathrooms. And the engineer said that will be good,” Rothwell said.
“As for the ice rink itself, quite honestly — once you freeze your ice, you’re not using a lot,” Rothwell said. “I mean, it may fill up the Zamboni and things like that. But you don’t expect to use any high levels of water. So the the architects and engineers feel that the one-inch line is adequate for what they need.”
The cost of the bathrooms will be paid out of the Riverhead Solar 2 community benefits agreement, Rothwell said. The agreement is still being finalized, he said. But it allocates $750,000 community development and the money can be spent on upgrades to parks, he said.
The town will also provide a parking area for the facility, to be located opposite the current parking lot, on the east side of the rec trail. The town will also provide lighting and signage for the parking area and will provide maintenance, including snow removal, the contract states. The town is not obligated by the agreement to pave the new parking lot immediately and use of the new lot will not be exclusive to the facility.
Peconic Hockey Foundation will operate and maintain the facility at its own expense. However, the town will pay electric, water and gas charges up to $150,000 per year, according to the agreement. The $150,000 annual cap will be increased annually based on the consumer price index for the preceding year.
The town may elect to recoup payments for electric, water and gas usage from net profit realized by the operation of the facility. Peconic Hockey Foundation is required by the contract to submit annual budgets, semi-annual financial reports, annual audit reports and five-year financial plans to the town.
The town will also provide a Dumpster and pay all costs of refuse removal.
The town has submitted the contract to the State Attorney General’s Office for review and a ruling on whether the license agreement authorizing a private nonprofit organization to build and operate a recreation facility on town-owned parkland constitutes a prohibited “alienation of parkland,” Rothwell said.
“I am completely confident that this is not an alienation of parkland because we’re not leaving anything. Everything that’s there, we own. It’s ours. We just didn’t build it. We got it as a gift. You know, we didn’t have to buy it. It was given to us. But it’s ours. It’s parkland, just like we build baseball fields and tennis fields. There’s no alienation of parkland. We’re not losing any rights,” Rothwell said in an interview yesterday.
Having the State Attorney General’s Office say it’s allowed is “an insurance step,” Rothwell said. “It will make sure we’re doing everything right.”
Rothwell said Thursday “there are “other pending proposals to build to the north of the Peconic Hockey, a multipurpose athletic fields that are more like, going to be like, indoor soccer, lacrosse, things of that nature.” He said the town has “somebody that’s very interested in doing that.”
If those plans come to fruition, the councilman said, they will probably have to upgrade some of the electric work and upgrade to a larger-size water line and may have to extend the sewer line as well, Rothwell said.
Rothwell, who has championed the partnership with Peconic Hockey to bring an indoor ice rink to Riverhead, hailed the opportunity to partner with Peconic Hockey as a chance to do something great.
“Remember the 1980 Miracle on Ice team? Herb Brooks gave his motivational speech. And I think it applies to what’s happening today,” Rothwell said. “He said great moments are born from great opportunities. That’s what Riverhead has before it today.”
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