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Rink of dreams in the Bronx

July 30, 2012 8:38:43 AM PDT
There are many proposals to develop the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx currently being considered by the Bloomberg administration, but one plan would turn the vacant building into the largest ice facility in the world.

The developers of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center envision a world class facility, with nine indoor ice rinks, that would provide kids a place to play hockey or figure skate for free. It's a dream that organizers hope the city will approve.

More than 2-thousand inner city Philadelphia kids take advantage of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey program. Boys and girls ages 5 to 18 have access to free equipment, skates, helmets and pads and dedicated coaches.

The program has had impressive results. School attendance is up by 70 percent and graduation rates have more than doubled.

It's similar to ice hockey in Harlem, which has given inner city kids access to an expensive sport that normally would be out of reach.

This kind of community-based outreach would be the cornerstone of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. The plan calls for transforming the cavernous 700-thousand square foot armory into 9 indoor ice rinks, wellness center and concessions. The outside would be landscaped and have a seasonal outdoor rink in the winter, but the year round free youth hockey program would be groundbreaking, because of its size.

The 250-million dollars project would be funded entirely by private money, no tax dollars. It also has the backing of gold medal figure skater Sarah Hughes and former Rangers captain Mark Messier. The NHL, which has long provided free equipment and support to urban youth hockey programs, sees the sport as a way to build character.

Developers are hoping city officials will share their vision to make these ice dreams come true.

The city's economic development corporation is currently negotiating with several developers for the Kingsbridge property and want to make a selection that will create jobs and generating economic investment in the Bronx. A decision will come by the end of year.

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