Photo: Adobe Stock

The ice rink under construction at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton is planning a soft opening later this month, and to start offering skating and hockey classes by next month, according to an official working for the nonprofit operating the rink.

The bubble dome covering the NHL-sized ice rink is up at the Calverton park. The operator is planning a soft opening for late this month, when the building is expected to receive its certificate of occupancy from Riverhead Town, according to Kevin McCormack of Emerald Sport Management, who will be the rink’s manager. McCormack works for the Peconic Hockey Foundation, the nonprofit that entered into an agreement with Riverhead Town last year to donate the ice rink facility to the town and operate it.

Council Member Ken Rothwell said Peconic Hockey has been working with town staff to move the project forward. He said the ice rink opening later this month or early next month is feasible. The town would like to celebrate its opening with a ceremony in late November, Rothwell said.

The project, which had groundbreaking ceremony in March, is expect to also include an outdoor deck hockey rink.

The ice rink now has a functioning website, Peconicicerinks.com, which has some information about the programs the ice rink will initially offer. McCormack said the website will continue to be updated. A schedule will be posted when it is finalized. McCormack said the rink will likely be open from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. at the latest.

Peconic-hockey-bubble-dome
Peconic Hockey’s bubble dome is up at Veterans Memorial Park. The rink operator is looking to open for skating in November. Photo: Quint Nigro

Peconic Hockey was originally scheduled to host an event with the New York Islanders on Oct. 15 to allow children and teens to try ice hockey for free, using skates and hockey equipment provided by the Islanders. That event has been postponed and will be rescheduled, McCormack said.

“Basically it’s an opportunity for boys and girls to come in and get on the ice with some coaches and try hockey and see if they like it,” McCormack said. “And the goal then is we will have learn-to-play hockey clinics that we’ll work with the Islanders on, and they can hopefully jump in and do that if they want to.”

There will be classes for adults and children to learn how to ice skate and play hockey on days during the week and weekend, McCormack said. Customers will be able to rent ice skates at the facility, McCormack said. Peconic Hockey will likely develop a hockey equipment rental program in the future, he said.  

Peconic Hockey also plans on hosting adult and youth hockey leagues on the ice in Calverton, McCormack said. The ice will also be available to rent for local school teams and traveling hockey teams, he said. 

“I like to call it a grassroots rink,” McCormack said. “It’s for the community… in a lot of ways for the residents of the Town of Riverhead, because they’ve become a good partner for us. But for anybody who wants to learn to skate or learn to play hockey,” he said.

“We’re working out how this is going to work, but there’s going there’s a discount for Riverhead residents for all the different grassroots programs that we have,” McCormack said.

Rothwell said the town has not had conversations with Peconic Hockey about discounts for town residents, but said officials would be “sitting down with them shortly.” Besides discounts for classes and programs, he said he would like to see free special events for town residents at the property.  

“I do want them to see to do some free programming overall, so that every resident will have an opportunity regardless of their financial status,” Rothwell said.

“I’m just super excited,” said Rothwell, a hockey fan and a big supporter of the ice rink project and the Peconic Hockey Foundation. “The dome is up, so the excitement is in the air and it’s coming. It’s here. And so what was once a dream is now becoming a reality. It’s super exciting.”

The plan to have Peconic Hockey bring a hockey rink to Riverhead has been years in the making. The project was considered for Veterans Memorial Park, then considered for Stozky Park, before it was agreed it would be hosted at Veterans Memorial Park. The contract between Peconic Hockey and the town requires the town to pay for up to $150,000 in electricity costs at the site and to build bathroom facilities near the site. The town has allocated some money for the bathroom facilities, but has not secured all it needs to build the required septic system.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com