Greenport American Legion to open renovated hall by beginning of 2018

It was the place to go on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons to skate and meet up with friends. It was a spot for firemen’s dances, birthdays, weddings, concerts and New Year’s Eve parties.

The Greenport American Legion has been out of commission for more than a decade, but efforts to restore the building and re-establish its role as community hub are ongoing.

As they stood at the edge of the roller rink during an open house Saturday, cousins Holly Weingart of East Marion and Tom Quillin of Greenport remembered the reverse skates, along with the couples-only, men-only, ladies-only and triples skates held at the rink when they were younger.

“It was where we hung out,” Ms. Weingart recalled. “We were never on the streets. We were always inside doing something.”

“And it’s gonna be that again,” Mr. Quillin added.

Mr. Quillin said he looks forward to the reopening of the hall and the rink so young people across the North Fork will again have something to do, especially during the winter.

“If you keep the kids off the streets there’s gonna be less trouble,” he said.

In October, the facility, which is owned by the legion, officially acquired a new general manager in Mindy Ryan, who brings more than 30 years’ experience in construction to the effort to revamp and reopen the space.

“We want it to be a true community center,” Ms. Ryan said, adding the she’s sensed a buzz in the community about the project.

She set a goal for a soft opening on New Year’s Eve this year, though the skating rink will not be ready at that stage, she said.

Ms. Ryan said the legion will be more than a roller rink when it opens and that the possibilities for how it can be used, in addition to being a meeting space for Burton Post No. 185, are endless.

There’s already interest in using it for a dance birthday party next year. The space could also be used for weddings, parties, movie nights — a screen is set to be installed — and much more, Ms. Ryan said.

Other goals will be to get local scout troops to use the hall and provide a community space for the those over age 50, perhaps with a 50-and-over-only skate night, as well as to attract younger veterans to join the American Legion post.

The revamped roller rink is named in honor of George Costello Sr., who died unexpectedly in December 2012 and was a leader of the restoration project, which began in 2011. Legion treasurer Rob Staron said progress on the effort has been a long time coming.

“It’s taken us a long time to get where we are, but we currently feel like we’re rounding third base and going to home,” Mr. Staron said.

Ms. Ryan and legion members, including Kevin Cahill of Greenport, spoke to the overwhelming support for the restoration. Mr. Cahill said people of all different backgrounds offered to help in different ways.

“All kinds of people are putting money and time in here,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m excited that it’s gonna give back in the same way that the community will benefit from it culturally and party-wise.”

Mr. Quillin, who is also a legion member, said the work could not have been done without the community.

“The people have been so good to us — the donations we’ve had, the volunteers that come down to help,” he said. “It just shows you what Greenport is all about.”

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Top photo: Mindy Ryan took on the role of general manager of the Greenport American Legion this year. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)