Riverhead will negotiate with a hockey group to install an NHL dome-sized ice rink at Stotzky Park

Riverhead Town will enter into negotiations with Peconic Hockey to install an NHL-sized rink at Stotzky Park.

City council members have agreed to have the city attorney begin negotiations with Peconic Hockey, with the goal of entering into a public-private partnership that will allow for the eventual construction of an NHL-sized indoor rink in the park.

The domed rink would be located on the Stotzky Park South Football Field, which Riverhead Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ray Coyne says is virtually unused.

The city had been talking with Peconic Hockey about building an ice rink at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton, but, Coyne said, “there are too many hurdles there,” in terms of permits and regulations.

Initially, the Stotzky rink would be located inside a “bubble dome”, but eventually Peconic Hockey wants to build a permanent multi-rink structure in the park, the city’s main park facility, located along Pulaski Street in Riverhead.

Peconic Hockey has already purchased the rink’s “canvas”, dome and mechanical equipment from the town of Cranston, Rhode Island, said the organization’s founder and chairman of the board, Troy Albert. Since it will cost about $200,000 to move everything, the agency’s leaders only want to move the materials once and have asked the city council for permission to store everything on city land.

Peconic Hockey is an all-volunteer, tax-exempt, non-profit corporation. He organizes hockey teams in the East End and initiates hockey programs in area school districts. But an East End rink is absolutely essential as ice time at West Suffolk and Nassau rinks is scarce.

The nonprofit group needs to avoid the cost of a second move, said board member Chris Keber, who attended the working session with Albert and the organization’s attorney, Stephen Kiely. So Peconic Hockey needs a place “to store equipment,” Keber said.

Riverhead officials have expressed concern about agreeing to store it without a long-term ground lease and management agreement.

Councilor Ken Rothwell, who said he has played ice hockey all his life, said he knew the East End needed an indoor rink. Teams travel to Kings Park and beyond for ice time at all hours of the night and early morning. He remembers playing hockey at 6 a.m. on school days when he was young.

Councilman Tim Hubbard agreed. He remembers playing ice hockey as a teenager at 1 a.m. “out west” because there was no other ice time available. As a police officer who ran the Riverhad PAL program for 30 years, he said, he knows there would be a lot of local demand for the rink.

“How soon can we get a contract and do it?” Rothwell asked. He said he was concerned that Riverhead was “a detention center” and that the rink would end up somewhere else. “I would advocate that I want it here,” he said.

Keber said he and Albert were residents of Riverhead and wanted to put the rink here.

“Riverhead is perfect. It ticks all the boxes,” he said, with the Long Island Expressway terminus and “the confluence of the two forks” and all the infrastructure, including hotels, to support tournaments and leagues.

The city council asked Assistant City Attorney Ann Marie Prudenti to negotiate the terms of a licensing agreement and/or ground lease with Kiely.

“Our ambition is to get the kids skating this fall,” Albert said. “We are ready to move forward.”

Anticipating that the single rink will be in high demand, Peconic Hockey would look to build a permanent structure with multiple rinks, Albert said. It would be “really important” for the city, he said. This would allow “multiple tournaments, multiple camps”, which are “real money makers for the city” in terms of patrons at local hotels and restaurants.

The domed rink “would be a stepping stone,” Kiely said.

Prudenti said the arrangement is not that simple. The site, because it is a park, is “impressed with public confidence,” Prudenti said. As such, it must meet certain legal standards.

A private partnership agreement must be signed “immediately” before the city can take the next step, Prudenti said. The deal “must give our residents a benefit they don’t already have,” Prudenti said. “And it needs to be structured in such a way that – whether it’s free use or a recreational program, we really need it right now,” she said. “It’s been planned for a few years,” she said. “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be done immediately,” Prudenti said.

“I will work with the city attorney’s office to negotiate a settlement,” Kiely said.

“It’s an exciting thing,” supervisor Yvette Aguiar said, adding, “I’ll be out there on skates.”

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