Kensico DamOct. 11, 2016 - Building on the success of “Winter Wonderland,” Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino today proposed converting the reflecting pool at the base of the iconic Kensico Dam into an ice rink during the fall and winter months. With work already underway to restore the pool’s cascading fountains that shoot water 30-feet in the air from spring to fall, the addition of skating would transform the park into a year-round destination for residents and visitors.

The unique design would include a regulation-size hockey rink, as well as a one-third of a mile straight away and loop configuration around the perimeter that would be geared for novice and recreational skaters with an additional section for lessons.

The rink and cascading fountains can be viewed in the 3-D animated video below.

“The rink opens a gateway to winter recreation at the county’s most convenient park,” said Astorino. “Ice skating at Kensico Dam Plaza, which is Westchester’s Central Park, will provide fun, healthy and affordable activities throughout the winter months, a time when families so often are eager to get their kids out of the house.”

Excited about the prospect of ice skating at Kensico, the New York Rangers have committed to holding clinics at the new rink in Valhalla, which could be completed as early as November 2017 in time for the 100th anniversary of the dam.

“Opening a RangersTown ice rink at Kensico last year in conjunction with the Winter Wonderland was a terrific experience for the Rangers and the people of Westchester,” said Rangers legend, Adam Graves, who was joined by current players Nick Holden and Michael Grabner. “This new permanent rink will create lots of additional opportunities to expose the great sport of hockey to thousands of people.”

Winter Wonderland, which opens this year on Nov. 25, includes an evening light show, shopping, food court, kiddie rides and a temporary ice rink on the plaza. The event has grown from 25,000 people attending the first year to 28,000 during last year’s five week run, which began the day after Thanksgiving.

The new rink would be open from November to the end of March and include energy-efficient refrigeration to ensure the availability of ice throughout the season. When temperatures fall below freezing, no refrigeration would be necessary.

“This proposal is so exciting because it opens Kensico Dam Plaza up to residents and new activities 12 months a year,” said Joseph Stout, executive director of the Westchester Parks Foundation. “You have to be in a park to enjoy it and the new rink will bring people to Kensico on days when they might have stayed indoors.”

Construction of the rink would be incorporated into a multi-year restoration of Kensico, whose 98 acres of open space are home to paths for walkers, joggers, and in-line skaters; a giant lawn for concerts, movies and the Fourth of July fireworks; and the Rising, the county’s 9-11 Memorial.

In addition to the rink installation, the reflecting pool’s nine historic fountains, capable of shooting water 30 feet in the air, are being fully restored. The proposed hockey rink is regulation size (200 feet by 85 feet) and the ice track on the perimeter is 30-feet wide, accommodating two lanes. Approximately half of the 720-foot by 135-foot reflecting pool would be covered with ice.

Environmental features include quiet, energy efficient chillers for the rink, pumping and circulation systems for the fountains that minimize water usage and LED lighting for the grounds.

“There is no other design like this,” said Anthony C. Catalano, senior principal at Woodard & Curran Engineering, the firm behind the project. “The rink can accommodate every kind of skater – beginners, advanced, hockey players and kids who just want to traverse around the loops. In the spring, the reflecting pools are filled with water and the fountains are turned on. There will be nine new fountains in total, along with accent lighting, and then it’s back to ice for winter. The result is a park for all seasons and all people.”

The idea for the ice rink grew out of plans by Astorino, already approved by the Board of Legislators, to refurbish the reflecting pool at the foot of the dam, including the deteriorating fountains, which have been shut for 10 years. As those plans were being designed, it became clear that if ever there was going to be a refrigerated rink at Kensico, the time to build it was now because the piping for the ice and the fountains should be built together.

“Operationally, financially, environmentally and practically, it makes sense to tie the skating rink and the reflecting pool fountains into the same project,” said Astorino.

On Friday, Astorino will unveil a proposed capital budget for 2017 of more than $300 million, which comes at a time when Westchester can take advantage of historically low interest rates and the best credit rating of any county in the state. About one third of the total, roughly $110 million, is dedicated for parks improvements.

“The Westchester County park system is one of the county’s best assets,” said Parks Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor. “Every dollar invested in our parks produces dividends year after year.”

The reflecting pool and rink initiative are part of ongoing improvements at Kensico. About $11 million is needed in 2017 to complete the project: $2.5 million to finish the work on the reflecting pool, $4.2 million for the ice rink and $4 million for a maintenance facility.

The economic impact of $300 million translates roughly into 3,000 jobs.

“All of these projects, whether they are for roads or parks, do two important things: create jobs and improve the quality of life in Westchester,” said Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and the Hudson Valley. “We applaud County Executive Astorino for his forward thinking on putting the county’s capital to work.”

More people coming to Kensico Dam Plaza also generates economic activity for restaurants, stores and hotels. Currently, the park attracts 200,000 visitors a year.

“We thank the County Executive for his vision to continue development and investment of this highly popular attraction,” said Dan Conte, president of the Westchester Hotel Association and general manager of the Westchester Marriott. “The Kensico Dam is an excellent location in the center of Westchester, and these improvements will go a long way toward attracting new visitors to the area.”

In summing up the case that the time was right for the fountain and rink initiative to move forward – complimentary projects, low interest rates, more jobs, an investment in the county’s quality of life and the 100th anniversary of Kensico Dam – Astorino put a modern slant on an old phrase.

“As the ancient Romans used to say: Carpe diem. Seize the day,” Astorino said. “And if they were here today, they would also say: Aedificare in glaciem. Build the rink.”

The capital projects now go to the Board of Legislators for approval.