About 70 people who had hoped the Town of Tonawanda would begin plans to build a new ice rink at Brighton Arena went home angry and dejected Monday.
In a 3-2 vote, the Town Board rejected a resolution to spend $400,000 to hire an engineering firm to begin planning for a new $7 million to $8 million arena.
The resolution also had considered reusing the town's second ice rink at Lincoln Park as a fieldhouse – and repurposing the existing Brighton Arena as a second practice rink.
Town Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger, who rejected the resolution, said the no vote doesn't kill the deal. He said a majority of the board favors building a new rink but wants firmer numbers before they can make a decision.
"We've got to make sure the numbers are right," Emminger said. "We are making a 25-year (bond) decision here."
During the board's work session before the meeting, the Town Board debated the cost of additional parking at Brighton Arena.
Currently, there is a parking lot for 200 people, but Emminger said if they leave the arena in place they would have to build a parking lot across the street on Brompton Road for another 300 cars.
A feasibility study placed the cost for a new parking lot at $425,000, but Emminger and Town Engineer James Jones said that cost could be more than $1 million, which would be added on to the cost of the project.
Also in question was how much income the ice rink and fieldhouse would bring to the town.
Councilor Lisa M. Chimera said it was about more than just an ice arena but about improving athletic facilities in the town as a whole. Along with Councilman Daniel Crangle, Chimera voted in favor of the project.
"We need to invest in our facilities to attract younger families to our town," Chimera said.
Crangle said planning for a new rink has been going on for two years.
"These hockey people have been waiting a long time," Crangle said. "These facilities are 60 years old. It's a commitment to our young people in the community and adults who use these facilities."
Councilman John Bargnesi said he'd love to see new facilities, but he said infrastructure – such as roads, curbs and sewers – is the priority.
Also voting no was Councilman William Conrad.
When the Town Board voted against the resolution, members of the audience – some with young children wearing hockey jerseys – got up and started filing out of the meeting.
Some adults hurled shots at the board in the form of comments.
Kenmore East High School hockey coach Kyle Pray said after the meeting he was disappointed.
"People were getting their hopes up that there was talk of finally doing something," said Pray, a town resident. "It's a facility that is badly in need of being redone and I truly believe (a new arena) would get a lot of use and bring a lot of people back."
Robert Gallagher, president of the Tonawanda Lightning Hockey League, said more than half the youth in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda are playing hockey outside the town.
But, he said, the promise of a new rink was bringing them back. He said 36 teams registered for their past tournament.
Bargnesi told Gallagher, "Obviously a hockey rink is a priority for you, but our task is townwide. We saw (those 60 to 70) people walk out (of the board meeting,) but we represent 75,000 people."
He said some residents have waited years for infrastructure improvements.