The Town of Tonawanda could take the first step toward replacing the Brighton Arena hockey rink with a brand-new, world-class rink when the board votes Monday night on a $400,000 proposal to hire an architectural firm to design the project.
Councilman Daniel Crangle said the town's two rinks, Brighton Arena and Lincoln Arena, are each about 60 years old.
He said the Department of Youth, Parks and Recreation would like to demolish Brighton Pool and its wading pool and build a regulation ice rink with concessions, locker rooms, shower facilities and seating areas next to Brighton Arena. Demolition of the existing arena is currently not part of the plan, according to Crangle, who said they are still investigating how to utilize the two adjacent arenas if a new rink is built.
He said the cost to build a new Brighton Arena will be borne by taxpayers and the town would need to bond $8 million for the project.
"There's no state funding, but we will be seeking funding from state leaders to offset the cost," said Crangle.
Crangle said one reason Brighton was chosen for the new rink over Lincoln Arena was its proximity to the I-290, which will allow the town to sell the naming rights to the arena. He said they already have received several offers. A traffic study done in 2013 found that 107,000 cars drive by, east and west, every day.
At its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, the board will take the first step if it approves the $400,000 planning bond to hire Carmina Woods Morris as a consultant to do design and engineering work, as well as an engineering plan for demolition and construction. Carmina Woods Morris was hired by the town to do a feasibility study in 2012 that looked at the rinks, but the project was put on hold due to mandated water and sewer infrastructure work.
Nine months ago hundreds of hockey players, coaches and families made their plea to the board to update town hockey facilities. They told the board that they were taking their children to newer facilities, such as the Northtown Center at Amherst. Organizations are paying ten of thousands of dollars to rent ice time at places such as Hyde Park Arena in Niagara Falls, rather than playing in an outdated arena in their own backyard, said Crangle.
Brighton Arena is smaller than a regulation-sized rink and space is limited. The lobby has picnic tables and the "locker rooms" don't have lockers, but merely hooks to hang coats and clothes. There are no showers and when girls play on mixed teams they have to change in a small storage office, said Crangle. Referees are forced to change in a narrow storage room surrounded by equipment lockers.
There are 1,114 registered hockey players in the Town of Tonawanda, said Crangle, but more than half – 668 – play outside the town.
"A lot of this is the condition of the rinks," said Crangle. "They are playing in regulation-sized, newer rinks that are upgraded and we haven't upgraded our rinks. They have to go outside the town for federation hockey games."
He said Brighton is only open five months a year, but with a new arena they could extend the ice time to 10 months a year and could rent out the ice to local organizations. In the two months of down time, in June and July, the arena could be used for roller skating, inline hockey, volleyball and other sports as well as for camps, clinics and birthday parties.
"It could become a year-round facility and attract a lot more organizations," said Crangle.
"Also (an arena at one location) would be better for the taxpayer. It would save us on personnel and equipment and everything would be centrally located," he added, referring to the cost of operating both the Brighton and Lincoln sites.
He said the future of Lincoln and Brighton arenas will be determined at a later date, but could also be part of Monday's discussion.
Crangle said they have discussed the plan to demolish the pool and wading pool next to Brighton Arena since 2013 and there hasn't been any negative push back. He said there also is a pool and wading pool two miles away at Lincoln Park.