VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Ice skating and hockey fans might soon have an ice rink during the fall and winter months for use if Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's proposal to convert the reflecting pool at the base of the Kensico Dam into an ice rink is approved.
With work already underway to restore the pool’s cascading fountains that shoot water 30-feet in the air from spring to fall, the addition of skating would transform the park into a year-round destination for residents and visitors, Astorino said.
The unique design would include a regulation-size hockey rink, as well as a one-third of a mile straight away and loop configuration around the perimeter that would be geared for novice and recreational skaters with an additional section for lessons.
“The rink opens a gateway to winter recreation at the county’s most convenient park,” said Astorino. “Ice skating at Kensico Dam Plaza, which is Westchester’s Central Park, will provide fun, healthy and affordable activities throughout the winter months, a time when families so often are eager to get their kids out of the house.”
Excited about the prospect of ice skating at Kensico, the New York Rangers have committed to holding clinics at the new rink in Valhalla, which could be completed as early as Nov. 2017 in time for the 100th anniversary of the dam.
“Opening a RangersTown ice rink at Kensico last year in conjunction with the Winter Wonderland was a terrific experience for the Rangers and the people of Westchester,” said Rangers legend, Adam Graves, who was joined by current players Nick Holden and Michael Grabner. “This new permanent rink will create lots of additional opportunities to expose the great sport of hockey to thousands of people.”
Winter Wonderland, which opens this year on Nov. 25, includes an evening light show, shopping, food court, kiddie rides and a temporary ice rink on the plaza. The event has grown from 25,000 people attending the first year to 28,000 during last year’s five week run, which began the day after Thanksgiving.
The new rink would be open from November to the end of March and include energy-efficient refrigeration to ensure the availability of ice throughout the season. When temperatures fall below freezing, no refrigeration would be necessary.
“This proposal is so exciting because it opens Kensico Dam Plaza up to residents and new activities 12 months a year,” said Joseph Stout, executive director of the Westchester Parks Foundation. “You have to be in a park to enjoy it and the new rink will bring people to Kensico on days when they might have stayed indoors.”
In addition to the rink installation, the reflecting pool’s nine fountains, capable of shooting water 30 feet in the air, are being fully restored. The proposed hockey rink is regulation size (200 feet by 85 feet) and the ice track on the perimeter is 30-feet wide, accommodating two lanes. Approximately half of the 720-foot by 135-foot reflecting pool would be covered with ice.
The idea for the ice rink grew out of plans by Astorino, already approved by the Board of Legislators, to refurbish the reflecting pool at the foot of the dam, including the deteriorating fountains, which have been shut for 10 years. As those plans were being designed, it became clear that if ever there was going to be a refrigerated rink at Kensico, the time to build it was now because the piping for the ice and the fountains should be built together.
“Operationally, financially, environmentally and practically, it makes sense to tie the skating rink and the reflecting pool fountains into the same project,” said Astorino.
The reflecting pool and rink initiative are part of ongoing improvements at Kensico. About $11 million is needed in 2017 to complete the project: $2.5 million to finish the work on the reflecting pool, $4.2 million for the ice rink and $4 million for a maintenance facility.
The capital projects now go to the Board of Legislators for approval.