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Group of hockey players wants city to allow ice skating back on Hoyt Lake

A group of hockey-playing city residents wants to see ice skating brought back to Hoyt Lake and Delaware Park this winter.

They're even volunteering to build a couple of rinks in the park themselves. All they're looking for is the city's permission to use the area.

"People are going to show up and they're going to want to skate and to be a part of it," said Jason Kroll, a member of the group, which calls itself the Buffalo Pond Hockey Committee.

An approved skating event on Hoyt Lake hasn't happened since 2003, the committee said, and regularly scheduled skating on the lake hasn't happened for decades.

Over the course of two weekends last January, dozens of people, including those who eventually made up the pond hockey committee, went out on a frozen Hoyt Lake to play a little hockey.

They were eventually told by police they couldn't stay out on the ice, but that hasn't discouraged them one bit.

The Pond Hockey Committee doesn't just want the space for hockey, either -- they see it being open to anyone who wants to skate.

Along with Kroll, 30, the committee also includes Matthew McCarthy, Tom Cotter, Ryan McNamee and William Aungst, all of whom are in their mid- to late 20s.

Since the lake tends to sufficiently freeze by January or February, and in order to maximize the available time in the season, the group is also proposing two man-made rinks in a meadow south of Hoyt Lake and east of the Marcy Casino.

They said they can turn the area into two 95-foot by 45-foot rinks for $450 each.

And they say they will cover all the costs of materials and labor through fundraising and with volunteers, meaning the city will pay nothing.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for them to say, 'Yes,' " Kroll said.

The lake, whose depth varies in spots to a maximum of about 10 feet, does not uniformly freeze. So the group is also hoping the city can provide the staff to measure the ice depth on the lake for safety purposes. They also believe some sections of the lake can be used more regularly, and efforts can be made to physically improve some sections' ability to freeze.

For the two rinks proposed for south of the lake, the committee said it plans to use water from Hoyt Lake to create the ice.

Last winter, members of the committee were able to use a rink built near the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park.

That rink was built for the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, which is looking for support and volunteers in order to bring it back again this year, said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, the conservancy's president and chief executive officer.

The committee has been in touch with Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, who plans to formally bring the matter before the Common Council next week, with a discussion planned at the committee level on Oct. 11.

LoCurto, who said he doesn't remember regular skating on Hoyt Lake since the 1980s, said he introduced a proposal on this issue about four years ago, but it was dismissed by the Public Works Department because of safety concerns.

Considering the interest from a group of young people and the possibility of adding a great activity, "we should figure out a way to get it done," LoCurto said.

"Really, it already is one of the nicest places in the city," he said. "This would just make it even better."

The committee, which has a Facebook page called Buffalo Pond Hockey, is also in the process of writing a long-term proposal for open-air skating in the city.

Eventually, Kroll said, he hopes skating on Hoyt Lake and in Delaware Park will "just be a part of winter in Buffalo."