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Amherst supervisor again raises possibility of ice complex expansion

The idea of adding a fifth ice rink at the Northtown Center at Amherst has resurfaced.

Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein pitched the idea during his State of the Town address last week to spark discussion about adding another rink to the popular four-rink complex on Amherst Manor Drive.

“We have more requests for ice time than we have ice time,” Weinstein said.

“I want to see how much interest there is out in the community for doing this.”

Weinstein also said developers have shown some interest in buying town land near the Northtown Center to build a privately operated hotel.

But expanding the ice rink complex comes with some assumptions and uncertainties.

Weinstein, for example, would like to involve the University at Buffalo in anticipation UB would need a home rink if it decides to embark on a Division I hockey program.

The supervisor also sees the potential for rink funding should the hotel bed tax rate increase, with the extra proceeds allocated to the local municipalities.

“I’ve discussed it with our state representatives,” Weinstein said of the bed tax. “Whether there’s a groundswell of interest, I don’t know what to expect.”

One of the problems with the concept is that hockey is not on the table at UB – at least not now.

“UB Athletics is not planning on adding any new sports programs at this time,” said Jonathan Fuller, assistant athletic director.

Plus, some voice concern about more deficits and debt with another rink, particularly since the Northtown Center incurs more in expenses than it generates in revenue.

The Northtown Center attracts thousands of out-of-town visitors. But more local competition looms with construction of the downtown HarborCenter underway.

“I think there are a lot of questions to be answered,” said Council Member Guy R. Marlette, liaison to the town’s Recreation Commission. “Adding a fifth rink could possibly increase revenue – but not enough.”

Early last year, Weinstein presented a similar idea for a rink and as many as two hotels at the Northtown Center.

At that time, the supervisor wanted to seek proposals from hotel developers interested in buying land at the Northtown Center.

His resolution, however, failed to be seconded by anyone else on the Town Board.