Bergen Record Article on the John T. Wright Ice Arena and MacKay Park
I wanted to share the article that appeared in the Bergen Record yesterday on the John T. Wright Ice Arena and MacKay Park in case you missed it. It is reprinted below for your convenience.
Mayor Frank Huttle
$1.1M spending plan for Englewood’s Mackay Park arena advances
THURSDAY JANUARY 31, 2013, 3:28 PM
BY REBECCA BAKER
ENGLEWOOD – A plan to spend $1.1 million to repair the city’s dilapidated Mackay Park arena has moved ahead, but the future of the 35-year-old ice rink is far from certain.
The spending plan barely passed the first step, with council members voting 3-2 this week to introduce a borrowing package that combined the ice rink project with a $2 million repair of a 100-year-old retaining wall along Overpeck Creek. The city would borrow the $3.1 million total for both projects by issuing bonds.
City council members say they question how much the city really needs to spend to reopen the John T. Wright Arena in Mackay Park, where decades of neglect were exacerbated by superstorm Sandy, which tore apart the roof and left the inside exposed to the elements. Others say they want a clearer picture of how fixing the ice rink fits into the city’s overall recreation program.
“The roof makes a lot of sense, but when you go into other things, like a snack bar, I don’t see why that’s essential to the operation of the rink,” said Councilman Michael Cohen. “I mean, $45,000 for a state-of-the-art cafeteria?”
The city signed a 10-year contract last year with the Boys & Girls Club of Garfield to manage the arena, which has been closed since April when the city allowed its contract with longtime rink manager Larry Reid to expire. In preparation for its planned reopening last fall, the city spent $450,000 on rink renovations, including a new cooling tower, heating system, pipes, valves and gas lines, bought a new Zamboni and repaved the parking lot.
City administrators now want to spend another $480,000 to replace the netting, rubber flooring, dasher boards, scoreboard and sound system, among other items. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the city’s insurance are expected to cover the estimated $720,000 for the roof, which was shredded in the Oct. 29 storm.
Cohen said he wants a line-item review of ice rink spending, but joined council members Marc Forman and Lynne Algrant in voting to move the plan forward. Councilmen Eugene Skurnick and Wayne Hamer voted no.
Hamer, who represents the ward in which Mackay Park and the damaged retaining wall are located, said he was not opposed to fixing the rink. But, he said, the project should be a component of a more comprehensive plan for recreation.
“I want whatever we do to be part of a more expanded recreation solution,” he said. “I want a commitment to enhance Mackay Park and activities.”
Mayor Frank Huttle has said he wants the ice rink, used mainly by youth hockey leagues, to be a year-round “showpiece” for recreation programs. He has scheduled a town-hall style meeting on Feb. 11, to let residents weigh in about what they want done with the ice rink and Mackay Park.
“We have the opportunity to enhance Mackay Park as a shining star of Englewood,” he said.
The 28.6-acre park, the largest in the city, is in the heart of the 4th Ward. It offers basketball and tennis courts, a baseball and softball diamond, a soccer field, a kiddie pool, bike path and playgrounds, as well as a picnic area.
The meeting will take place at the Community Baptist Church on First Street, also in the 4th Ward, and a day before the council meets to discuss the rink and retaining wall spending plan. A public hearing and vote are scheduled for Feb. 26.