The Greenport American Legion gave tours Saturday afternoon to showcase the progress of renovation work at its building on Third Street — a space many locals remember as a roller skating rink.
Legion member Richard Clark stopped by with his father, Lloyd, and reminisced about family trips to the rink after he saw the vintage skate sign lit up.
Richard Clark described volunteering for the renovation project as rewarding since the building will soon be filled with family-friendly events again.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “Lots of satisfaction with getting close to opening.”
The Burton Potter American Legion Post 185 has been working to restore the ailing structure and roller rink since the building shuttered more than a decade ago. The restoration project began in 2011, but suffered a major setback in December 2012 when George Costello Sr., one of the project’s leaders, died unexpectedly at age 63.
For their efforts, Mr. Costello, a Vietnam War veteran, and fellow volunteers were named The Suffolk Times’ “Civic People of the Year” for 2011.
“It’s been a long project for us,” legion member and the project’s construction manager Fred Schoenstein said. “We all agree if he was alive, it would have been done by now because he was such a driving force behind this project.”
The legion plans to open the building for public events this fall and expects to complete the roller skating rink before the end of the year.
Mr. Schoenstein said many tasks initially planned to be repaired on the 14,000-square-foot building, such as electrical and plumbing, turned into total replacement projects after it was determined they couldn’t be salvaged.
Those tasks — as well as installing a new roof, south wall, windows, doors, electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning — have been completed, Mr. Schoenstein said. He added a new sprinkler system was also installed.
The Legion Hall was built in 1950 and then rebuilt in 1953 after it burned down. Many musicians have held concerts there, including Charlie Daniels and Wilson Pickett. There had also been professional wrestling events there.
“We’d like to see that happen again,” Mr. Schoenstein said about big acts coming to the village, adding the venue will also hold weddings and community events.
Legion treasure Rob Staron said between $650,000 and $700,000 has been raised through donations since the volunteer effort began and his group is seeking additional funds to complete the rest of the renovation work.
Among the other outstanding tasks include installing the rink flooring and railings, bathrooms fixtures and tiles, and interior painting.
Mr. Schoenstein said the stage, concession area and counter also need to be refurbished. They’re also seeking volunteers to clean and oil the skates, Mr. Staron added.
Other familiar items that will also be spruced up and featured in the renovated space include a Kist cooler, which was a Greenport company that made orange soda.
Among the significant changes done to the building include the removal of the wooden floor that was damaged after Superstorm Sandy and the removal of the ceiling tiles, which helped to open up the space.
The amount of businesses that have volunteered labor stretch across the North Fork, Shelter Island and the Hamptons, and also include other Long Island companies. Mr. Schoenstein and Mr. Staron attribute the amount of renovation work completed to the generosity of those businesses, as well as the financial support and volunteerism from the community.
“Individuals and companies in and out of town have been wonderful throughout the process,” Mr. Staron said. “Not just financially, but also with their time. We could not do this without them.”
Ruth Yoskovich of Greenport said she believes the community’s support has been strong since many people enjoyed roller skating with their children.
On Saturday, she toured the building with her daughter, Deanna, and 8-month-old grandson, Kash, and told stories about how she used to work in the skate room and reminisced about how her stepfather, Gabe “Bumpy” Grilli, was known as one of the most dazzling skaters in town.
Deanna Yoskovich said she’d like to continue her family’s tradition of spending time at the Greenport roller rink.
“I can’t wait — this was a huge part of my childhood,” she said, adding the building’s sweet and musty scent hasn’t changed. “Lots of memories.”
Want to contribute?
Please make checks payable to Burton Potter Club, Inc. and mail to Greenport American Legion, P.O. Box 103, Greenport, NY 11944. Receive a “Wall of Honor” plaque that will be displayed in the building with a $100 donation. For more information or to volunteer, call the Greenport American Legion at 631-477-1020.
Top photo: From left, Greenport American Legion members Andy Ruroede, Fred Schoenstein, Richard Clark, Colin Ratsey and Rob Staron with Floyd Clark (front).
Scroll down for more photos.