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Hamburg has a decision to make about its 'pretty ragged' ice arena

Hamburg's ice arena at the old Nike missile base is nearing the 50-year mark, and it's time to look at enlarging it, Hamburg Supervisor James M. Shaw said.

It's a familiar refrain in the town, where talk about making improvements to Hamburg's ice arena has been around almost since it was built as an open-air rink in 1974.

Over the years walls were added, one at a time, and the rink became an indoor attraction. And in recent years there have been at least three proposals for expanding to two rinks or building a completely new public-private sports facility.

But this time, they're talking about improvements financed by the town, not a $30 million public-private undertaking.

"The ice arena is 47 years old. It's showing its age. It's pretty ragged," Shaw said.

In his state of the town address last month, he called for refurbishing it, and adding indoor turf in a field house.

After voters soundly rejected privatizing Hamburg's town ice rink in 2009, residents asked the town to enlarge it and add a field house, but that did not happen. That was seven years after a sports dome with a golf range proposed for the former Nike base never materialized.

A public-private venture for twin ice rinks, field house and gyms fizzled in 2017 and a private ice rink venture has not been built.

But the need remains.

"There's more girls hockey, so we should have additional or better separated locker rooms for girls," said Martin Denecke, director of youth, recreation and senior services.

The supervisor said the town wants to remodel the waiting area, increase some of the seating and improve the locker and restroom areas. The refrigeration units also need attention.

"You get the sense this has been beaten up pretty well over the years," Shaw said.

Denecke said the facility is well kept, "but it's old and there are things we need to look at." He said the ice making equipment is "probably" past the life span of the last upgrade, which occurred in 1997.

"We have to start thinking about that, but it's not urgent at the moment," he said.

There's also talk of adding a field house with indoor turf for soccer and lacrosse.

"A field house with turf is what the consensus is," Denecke said. "We want to have areas for soccer, lacrosse and football, but also netted areas for golf, baseball and softball."

And Denecke also wants to have more courts for basketball and volleyball.

No decisions have been made, and the town is looking at how much it might be able to borrow in the bond market.

Several suburbs have added gym space. Orchard Park is poised to open its Community Activities Center with two full-size gyms, and West Seneca's library/community center includes a gym. West Seneca's town ice rink was built in 1975, and a new floor and refrigeration system were installed in 2012 as part of an energy savings program.

How to pay for new recreation space, particularly ice rinks, is something other suburban leaders are grappling with. Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger said in December that the increasing costs for building a new ice arena and splash pad while converting an aging rink to a field house don't make economic sense for the town anymore.

“The cost outweighs the benefit,” he told The Buffalo News.

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