Dozens of hockey players of all ages, clad in colorful jerseys, flooded City Hall on Thursday to show support for the proposed reconstruction and expansion of the roller hockey rink at Ralph Foy Park.
The Community Sports Foundation, which runs the rink’s hockey and skating programs, has proposed converting the outdoor rink to an indoor two-rink, semi-permanent structure, citing a host of benefits. These include improving player safety, simplifying rink maintenance, eliminating weather challenges and allowing the organization to expand and host tournaments.
Frank Dalessandro, executive director of the foundation, told the Park, Recreation and Community Services Board Thursday that the rink is old and breaking down, yet the program is “bursting.”
“Our youth program is just growing like crazy — we’re running out of room on where to put these kids,” he said over the phone Friday.
In a unanimous vote, the board on Thursday asked for further study on the logistics and practicality of the project from city officials, who felt the project would take away a large amount of open space at the “already congested park,” according to a city report.
“There will be some other people out here saying, ‘Wait a minute, where’s my space to play Frisbee, where’s my space to throw a ball around with my kids,” said board member Barry Gussow. “We have to be cognizant of that.”
The nonprofit organization offered to fund the project — to the tune of an estimated $4 million — entirely through donations and investments.
Even so, board members also raised concerns about ongoing maintenance and utility costs with a new building, as well as accommodating an increase in parking demand, and asked city officials to further research the logistics of the project.
Alternative options, like enclosing the existing rink to address some of the current operational challenges or constructing a multipurpose structure that could accommodate other programs, like indoor soccer, were also mentioned.
The nonprofit coordinates four competitive adult roller hockey leagues and three youth leagues — which make up a total of 650 players on 65 teams — and hosts family skate nights and pick-up hockey games at the rink.
The program has seen steady growth since the nonprofit took the helm of the hockey program four years ago, and expects that it will reach capacity and have to turn players away over the next several seasons.
With the expansion, it hopes to eventually serve 1,500 players on 150 teams.
The board is slated to discuss the proposed expansion project further in June.
“I’m a supporter of open space, but I also think what we’re doing here is keeping the kids off the Xboxes, and making sure they’re out there playing sports,” said board member Armond Aghakhanian.