The ice skating rink at Mitchell Park in Greenport Village will not reopen this winter due to repair and operational issues, but village officials are determined to keep the beloved attraction alive.
A special work session took place on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at the Third Street firehouse , where Village Board members discussed potentially disposing the current ice rink and funding for a new one.
Since it would be a lengthy process, Mayor Kevin Stuessi said building a new ice rink by winter 2025 would be “the best case scenario,” but not entirely certain.
“The ice rink is in such condition that it’s just no longer serviceable,” said Mr. Stuessi. “We find ourselves in the position of — if we want to bring back ice skating — we need to get a new rink.”
The ice rink opened at Mitchell Park in 2005 and, according to a News-Review report published at that time, it was the first publicly owned rink on Long Island since Nassau Coliseum was built, as well as the first public refrigerated ice rink built in years.
Over the past two decades, ice skating at Mitchell Park has become a wintertime attraction for village residents of all ages and even people from the South Fork, Mr. Stuessi said.
However, he added, with time comes aging, and the fact that the rink has been stored outside in the elements — even during the off-season — hasn’t helped with its long-term maintenance.
Village Trustee Lily Dougherty-Johnson said this was one reason the board decided last April not to open the rink this winter.
Other factors the board considered, she said, were the cost of upkeep and the inability to operate the rink because of the effects of global warming.
Mr. Stuessi added that the village has been “lucky if they’ve even got a couple of days’ worth of use out of it” during an entire season.
“Ice skating rinks are expensive and the rink that [village officials] decided to do at the time was kind of an interim,” said Ms. Dougherty-Johnson. “It was meant to last maybe five or 10 years and it’s lasted more like 20 — so it just reached the end of its life.”
Conversations on how to keep the rink afloat have been ongoing for a few years. In 2022, Southold Town and Greenport Village considered teaming up to invest in the much-needed repairs – making the operation a “joint venture,” according to a previous Suffolk Times report.
At the time, then-supervisor Scott Russell told the Suffolk Times that Southold Town was looking into the feasibility of an intermunicipal agreement with the village to split capital costs for rink maintenance and operation, including a potential “bubble” to insulate the rink, making it viable even in bad weather.
Village administrator Paul Pallas estimated that rink repairs would cost roughly $200,000, the 2022 report said.
“I don’t believe that money was ever spent,” Mr. Stuessi said. “Hence, it was only open anywhere from one to four days over the past couple of winters.”
Today, Mr. Stuessi and the village trustees have determined that repairing the rink is not a feasible option. Although replacing it wouldn’t be inexpensive either, the mayor said they are investigating funding through Downtown Revitalization Grants, as part of the state’s NY Forward program.
At the meeting, Mr. Stuessi recommended the board could sell the Zamboni, which has been sitting in storage, for money as well.
“I’m not in favor of trying to mothball the Zamboni I think that would be a mistake,” said Patrick Brennan, village trustee. “But I think we need to know two things: one is what we could reasonably expect for the sale and then what the likely replacement cost would be.”
Ms. Dougherty-Johnson said community input on this decision is crucial and any support can push the initiative to maintain ice skating in Greenport Village forward.
“It’s just a question of making it happen and figuring out something that works, especially when thinking about climate and the future,” she said.
When weighing all the options for possible rink replacements, , Mr. Stuessi said the village wants to make a “smart investment” that is going to last.
He said that past village trustees have discussed potentially moving the ice-skating rink out of the downtown district entirely, but he opposes that idea.
“I’ve got two older daughters who grew up ice skating and competing nationally — so it’s something very close to my heart,” Mr. Stuessi said. “I think it’s been a historically important part of Greenport’s downtown and I very much want to bring it back.”