GLENVILLE — Schenectady County is reconsidering a plan to shut down the county ice rink in Glenville because of the COVID-19 pandemic, after learning the county might not save money with the move, County Manager Rory Fluman said.
Fluman said he learned only on Friday that a two-month shutdown of the Schenectady County Recreation Center ice rink, located at the County Airport, might not save the county money. County officials originally assumed it would.
“We are not getting out of the ice skating business,” Fluman said on Saturday. “The first report was that we would save a ton of money, and then I found out literally on Friday, maybe not.”
On Wednesday, county officials had confirmed that they would be shutting the Recreation Center rink down. Word had begun to circulate among hockey enthusiasts, who are still hoping groups like Schenectady Youth Hockey can get back on the ice for non-contact practices, even if hockey games aren’t allowed under current state guidelines.
“We are not sure if we are going to turn off the ice or not,” Fluman said. “The question is with youth hockey practice. We are not going to allow hockey games or tournaments until the governor tells us we can.”
The rink, which was built in 2000, is used by youth and high school hockey programs, for skating lessons, by figure-skaters, and for public skating. The rink was closed down entirely when the pandemic first struck in March, but was then allowed to re-open in July for a hockey goalie camp. That camp is now winding down, and normally youth league practices and games would be starting.
Schenectady County Youth Hockey President Greg Marcincuk of Niskayuna said the league’s 11 travel teams would normally starting playing in the first week of September, but county officials have refused to commit to allowing ice time.
“I think it is going to be devastating to my association, that we will lose people,” Marcincuk said on Saturday.
Other rinks in Albany County, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park and Troy are open, he said, though those rinks are fully booked for the times when youth hockey can be played, Marcincuk said.
The league works with about 1,000 young players every year, he said, offering skills lessons to youths ages 5 to 18. The Glenville rink is Schenectady Youth Hockey’s home rink, and the organization also manages the rink for the county. “My membership, they just want to play hockey,” he said.
Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said it would be disappointing if the facility were to close. “It’s unfortunate, because I know folks were looking forward to it opening again,” he said. “Hopefully it will be able to open again at some point.”
Fluman said the county will provide the hockey league with an answer about whether or not it will shut down by the end of this week.
Cost will be a consideration, he said, acknowledging that the pandemic has created unprecedented budget challenges for the county, with sales tax revenue down and costs up. “We are in a fiscal crisis,” he said.
It costs the county about $180,000 per year to operate the rink, though much of that is offset by revenue from rink users.
Earlier this month, the County Legislature signed an agreement with nearby Mohawk Honda to lease the Recreation Center parking lot to store inventory. However, Fluman said that arrangement could be cut short, if the rink were to be allowed to re-open. “That’s just trying to raise some revenue when we know people will not be there,” he said.
Before any hockey play resumes, Fluman said the league organizers will have to submit a safety plan to the county for review, and the county will have to approve it.