Businesses hopeful for skating rink bonanza

By MIAWLING LAM

Local merchants and residents are devising strategies to boost economic development and capitalize on possible increased foot traffic from the yet-to-be-built Van Cortlandt Park ice skating rink.

Preliminary discussions on how to keep local cash registers ringing kicked off at last Thursday’s Community Board 8 economic development committee meeting.

With the rink set to open for business in less than seven months, members have turned their attention to ensuring local businesses benefit from the expected spike in visitors.

Ideas suggested include encouraging merchants in Riverdale and Kingsbridge to offer coupons or special promotions such as selling discount hot chocolate to skaters.

CB8 economic development chair Sergio Villaverde said the skating rink could represent a boon for the area if the community plays its cards right.

“I feel that our role is to make the connections between local merchants and the project that’s coming in,” he said.

“In the winter time, [local businesses] are basically dead. It’s really feast to famine, so they’re looking forward to anything that will get people through in the winter time,” he said.

Villaverde said he has reached out to representatives from the concessionaire, Ice Rink Events, and hopes for a joint meeting with several other committees by June.

At a public hearing last month, three of the 20 people who signed up to deliver testimonies spoke of the economic development benefits of the rink, including Skyview Wines & Spirits owner Gary Wartels.

“I think the skating rink would really be a tremendous boost for businesses,” he said at the time.

“Something like an ice rink can really help vitalize the area, and this is just a really unique opportunity to make it happen.”

However, not everyone is convinced skaters will remain in the area long enough to part with their cash.

CB8 member Robert Press predicted many parents would drop off their children at the rink and pick them up once they’re finished.

“People are going to go over to the park and not cross over the street,” he said. “I say this because I’ve seen developments go up where you have the large store on one side and then you have smaller stores away from it, and those smaller stores see less than half of the business at the larger store.”

But fellow CB8 member Xaxia Sanchez said with the rink slated to offer a limited amount of snacks, patrons may explore their surroundings and eat in the area.

“What may happen is that people may come outside to eat or eat across than street rather than actually purchasing inside the ice skating rink,” she said.

According to the 15-year license agreement, the skating rink will operate the entire winter season, from October 15 through March 30.

The rink will measure 80 feet by 170 feet—just shy of an NHL regulation field—and be open daily from noon until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Patrons will be charged a $5 admission fee Monday through Friday before 6 p.m. and $8 on Fridays after 6 p.m. and on weekends and holidays. Skate rental will be $5 at all times.

For the first two years, the rink will operate with temporary chillers, equipment that will be fenced off from the public.

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