$3 million in state funds helps East Brunswick break ice on skating rink

East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen provided some refreshing news on a scorching afternoon last week, announcing the township will receive $3 million in state funding toward the construction of a municipal-owned ice skating rink.

Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Assemblymembers Robert Karabinchak and Sterley Stanley, who represent New Jersey’s 18th Legislative District, which includes East Brunswick, helped secure the funding to benefit township and state residents.

“I want to thank everyone for coming out on this blistering hot day to talk about money that our representatives have been able to get us for an ice rink, because if there’s anything I could use right now it would be a little bit of coolness,” Cohen said at the start of Tuesday’s press conference, held on the site at 110 Tices Lane where the rink will be constructed.

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East Brunswick will receive the funding as part of Governor Phil Murphy’s 2023 fiscal year budget, which the state legislature approved last month.

“We are honored to work with Governor Murphy, Senate President Nick Scutari, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and our colleagues in the state legislature to bring this funding to East Brunswick,” Diegnan, Karabinchak and Stanley said in a joint statement.

“Mayor Cohen and the township council are as good as it gets. Everybody works together, everybody has a common goal, and this is an example of what government collaboration should be.”

The skating rink will increase sports and recreation options for residents of and visitors to East Brunswick, while simultaneously providing economic opportunities to local businesses as part of the township’s plan to revitalize Route 18 as an entertainment corridor.

Located behind Lowe’s on the property that previously housed a Wonder Bread factory, the ice skating rink is planned to operate as a recreational utility, such as the township’s Crystal Springs Family Waterpark, meaning it is designed to be paid for by those who use the facility.

Cohen said the developer of the area, Garden Homes Development, has agreed to deed back to East Brunswick the eight acres of property upon which the rink will be built in return for economic and tax advantages. The developer will also be responsible for all water lines, sewer lines, stormwater drainage, grading, and parking for the facility.

The facility will feature two National Hockey League-sized rinks for open public skating, recreational, scholastic, travel and adult hockey, figure skating, and curling. Plans for the venue also include an all-purpose area for basketball, pickleball and other activities.

“These are really opportunities to try to provide something for the community that we desperately need,” Cohen said, noting the ice rink will be an economic driver for the area.

“Whether that is bringing travel teams in or bringing in tournaments, it helps feed restaurants, it helps feed hotels, it helps feed service industries and other entertainment venues that are dotting and continuing to increase along our Route 18 corridor.”

The skating rink will also provide playing time for student-athletes. East Brunswick Public Schools Board of Education recently approved adding ice hockey as a sports program in the school district.

“There’s been a steady drumbeat of folks over the course of 15 years who said this is a need in East Brunswick and it’s a community amenity that would just enhance what we already have,” said East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Michael Hughes, noting the township has a storied history of commitment to sports and recreation.

“This is just the natural next step to happen here to have an ice hockey facility and an ice rink for town residents to enjoy.”

Recognizing ice time and equipment can be expensive, Cohen said charities within the township are willing and committed to ensure opportunities will be provided “for everybody to enjoy and learn and to gain skating skills and maybe identify and participate in a sport that otherwise would be out of reach.”

Representatives from the township council, redevelopment agency, recreation parks advisory board, newly appointed ice rink advisory board, planning and engineering, and others – including youth hockey players and their parents – joined Cohen for the press conference.

The agencies and individuals are collaborating on the building design and planned programs for the ice skating rink to ensure they meet community needs.

“I really think this is a project,” Cohen said, “that’s going to bring all parts of the township together to do something that’s really great for our residents.”

East Brunswick Township Development Officer Robert Zuckerman said the $3 million in state funding “really shows the collaboration at the different levels of government that we have here in East Brunswick.”

“When the (18th District) state legislators can go and get $3 million from Trenton and bring it back to the community … it also shows the support the state has for us economically and as a community.”

Zuckerman said the ice rink’s construction amid the developing entertainment corridor is “one more feather in our cap that will bring people here as a destination.”

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