About 100 hockey coaches, parents and players appeared at a Town of Tonawanda board meeting on Monday to ask the town to build a new arena.
The town currently has two indoor arenas at Lincoln and Brighton parks -- but the aging infrastructure of the arenas, which are 58 to 60 years old, is a concern, said Councilman Daniel Crangle.
He said town officials have been discussing a new arena for many years, and have more recently begun looking at the financial costs of rehabilitation or replacement.
Building a new single-rink arena at Brighton Park seems most likely because of its proximity to the 290, which will allow the town to sell naming rights in the highly visible area, Crangle said.
"The infrastructure drives the program," said Robert Gallagher, president of the Tonawanda Lightning, who said a lot of families turn to other programs in neighboring communities.
"If a new rink was in play, a lot more of these kids would come back," Gallagher said.
"The time for a new facility is now," said Rich Crozier, who directs the hockey program at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in the town.
He said there are 200 athletes and 10 hockey teams at his school, the largest program in New York which has won five Catholic school state championships in the last seven years.
But, he said, the rinks are too outdated for federation games and they have to schedule spring ice time at other arenas.
Some of his best players leave Tonawanda to play at more modern facilities, he said.
Other coaches echoed those concerns.
Kyle Pray, a coach at Kenmore East, said the rinks are not regulation-size, have uncomfortable aluminum bleachers, have dressing rooms that are too small and locker doors that open directly to the lobby.
"We are definitely the most outdated in the Western New York community," said Pray. "A new facility could be an asset to our community."
Pray said a new facility would attract tournaments and put money into the community and could become a community gathering place.
"Kids are playing a high level of hockey and want the best facilities," said Chuck Sears, a Tonawanda resident who played hockey in the town as a youth, but is taking his own kids to programs outside the town.
"Everybody wants a new rink. We either have to put million dollars or more into existing Brighton Arena or build a new arena," said Town Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger. "We need the public support."
The town will be conducting a financial analysis with a consultant which they hope to finish up by July before they move to the next step.
Crangle, the councilman, said when the study is done the public will know how much the project will cost. He said a new twin rink at Brighton could cost $12 million, but they could start with one rink, with the ability to upgrade.