The Riverhead Town Board will likely move to table a resolution on today’s agenda that would authorize an agreement with Peconic Hockey Foundation to bring an NHL-sized ice rink to Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. The town has not yet come to terms with the Wading River nonprofit and negotiations remain ongoing, according to Deputy Town Attorney Annemarie Prudenti.
Prudenti confirmed in a phone call Tuesday that Peconic Hockey’s attorney has yet to respond to the town’s request to approve the contract and negotiate the rest of its terms, including the exact location where the facility would be built within the park. Peconic Hockey’s attorney was sent a copy of the agreement last Monday and would probably have “proposed changes” to the draft agreement, Town Attorney Erik Howard told the board during its work session discussion of the agreement on Thursday.
Representatives from Peconic Hockey were not present during the work session. Peconic Hockey President Troy Albert did not return a call yesterday requesting comment.
The resolution authorizing the supervisor to sign the particular agreement was on the agenda distributed by the Town Clerk upon Aug. 31 in advance of the work session and the version released yesterday in advance of the board’s regular meeting, which takes place today. Howard will ask the board to table the agreement this afternoon, Prudenti said.
The particular 10-year license agreement accepts the gift of a bubble dome ice rink facility from Peconic Hockey, designates the organization the manager of the facility and makes the organization responsible for the construction from the facility, according to a draft discussed at the work program. Peconic Hockey also must provide proof of its financial ability to complete the construction, the agreement states.
The draft of the agreement provided to the public is incomplete and makes reference to three exhibits that don’t currently exist, Prudenti said — one showing where the facility would be located on the town-owned parkland, another spelling out the purpose of the service and a third listing the events the Riverhead Recreation Department will be entitled to hold at the facility.
Prudenti said in her opinion, she “can’t fathom any extraordinary circumstances which wouldn’t warrant tabling. ”
Under the draft agreement, Peconic Hockey would also be responsible for installing infrastructure and maintaining infrastructure at the facility, which usually sits on a site with a history of challenges in obtaining permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Division. The organization would also pay for all utility costs.
Howard said during the work session the draft of the agreement was made with the input and recommendations from Town Board members.
Councilman Ken Rothwell, an advocate for the ice rink project and a longtime hockey player, said Peconic Hockey is working on a site plan for the project at its own expense.
He said he also went down to Experienced Memorial Park with Entertainment Superintendent Raymond Coyne plus Assistant Town Engineer Tobey maguire Testa to assess how the town can expand the particular park’s facilities.
“It’s a popular park right now with just biking, runners, the dog recreation area and tennis that’s going up there, ” Rothwell stated. “So eventually, we’re going to want to expand regardless of this facility, we need to expand parking up there. We have been working with Ken [Testa], he’s working with the health department. about getting the bathroom facilities up there. And so that’s in the process of planning, like the location, so that regardless of, again, regardless of hockey, we need adequate facilities up there. ”
Rothwell said if in 15 years the ice rink is successful, Peconic Hockey may want to expand from the bubble into a brick-and-mortar building. He said the bubble could be used for other sports indoors for year-round play, like lacrosse or soccer. Rothwell said he is dealing with Coyne to come up with a long-term plan for Veterans Memorial Park.
Another issue town officials may encounter in their quest to bring the particular rink to Calverton is whether the project would amount to an alienation of parkland. Generally, once municipal parkland has been dedicated, it requires an act of the State Legislature to use for any other purpose, including in the case of an extensive lease or operating contract with a private entity.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said she received an email from the state Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation requesting to work on the issue with the town attorney. She said the issue may be a hurdle to the project’s completion.
Howard said he will speak with the office of the state Lawyer General after an agreement is signed to discuss parkland alienation, and if it could be avoided or if the board would need to take action.
Board users expressed general excitement about the project moving forward.
Town officials had been in discussions with Peconic Handbags to site the indoor rink at the 90-acre Calverton park since at least 2020. Discussions moved to a soccer field at Stotzky Recreation area in Riverhead this summer on the recommendation of Coyne, who said the field was underused. While negotiations were continuing with the town, Peconic Hockey purchased the bubble dome.
The plan moved back to Veterans Memorial Park last month after the Stotzky area drew backlash from the town’s Recreation Advisory Committee, town officials and residents, including the president of the Riverhead Soccer League.
While in negotiations with Peconic Handbags, town officials said the organization asked for the town to pay 20% of its electricity costs, or around $300, 000 per year, to keep the facility running. Those costs do not appear in the draft agreement. Aguiar opposed spending that amount of money around the facility, while Rothwell supported the idea.
Albert, Peconic Hockey’s president, mentioned the rink will bring much-needed access to ice sports within the East End. The not for profit — founded in 2015 to promote ice hockey for the East End through scholarships, training and other programs — sponsors a youth travel team program and has been using two seasonal outdoor rinks on the East End throughout the winter months. East End hockey players travel west at all hours of the day and night for ice time at existing outdoor ice rinks in Suffolk County, located in Dix Hills, Kings Park and Hauppauge.
Read the full draft of the agreement presented to the board here:
Editors note 9/7/22 1 p. m.: This article was amended post-publication to include a PDF copy of the draft from the agreement with Peconic Hockey Foundation presented to the Town Board during its Sept. 1 work session.
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